Just a Spoonful of Sugar

I am rereading “The Yoga of Eating.” I find it disturbing in a good way. The author wrote about how Americans use sugar to experience sweetness. This statement evoked a memory of going to an Ayurvedic doctor. (Ayurveda is an ancient health system that comes from India. It focuses on bringing the body back into balance) I was sent home with pungent smelling teas and small brown bags of herbs that smelled up my kitchen. I remember brewing fibrous tree barks and odd textured roots and leaves. I also remember one stringy bark that reminded me of a Zebra skin.

I was also given a jar of honey along with the instructions to take a teaspoon every morning while contemplating the sweetness of life. I remember that the taste of that honey was like an elixir. I could have devoured most of the contents in the jar in one setting. Taken as a medicinal property it did seem to nourish something in me that I couldn’t quite grasp. I just knew I wanted more. It also reminds me of Mary Poppins and the song “Just a Spoonful of Sugar.” (That time in my life was not particularly pleasant).

The Yoga of Eating explains how to recognize authentic body appetites, how to distinguish them from cravings and ultimately how to liberate our selves from the regime of willpower. For example, that craving for donuts — is that a true appetite, or perhaps a substitute for what we really need? Food in our culture serves many needs, whether for nutrition, comfort, excitement, camaraderie, or diversion. Unable to meet the real need at its source, we substitute food.

The author went on to say that eating and craving sweets were linked to the fact that we are disconnected from ourselves and from nature due to our fast paced lives. He spoke about how we rely on doctors and the diet/health and fitness industry to tell us what is best for our bodies. But, do they really know? Often all their theories contradict each other. Which way is best? I personally don’t believe in a one diet fits all.

I am entertaining the idea that maybe my own body holds that wisdom. Maybe if I get quiet enough and begin to practice mindfulness I can tap into the wisdom of my body.

I was taught that if I trusted and listened to my body to tell me what it was hungry for I would be loading up on pastries and cheesecakes. Is this really true? Do I need someone else to tell me what my body needs? Can I learn to tell the difference between cravings and authentic hunger?

What if I listened to my body, really heard what it needed—not just food, but rest and movement. And what if I honored its requests? I wonder if I would find the balance.

I want to see if I can re-establish a relationship with my body. I believe there is a strong body mind connection. I just need to re-learn how to listen.

Maybe it’s time to get back in touch with my Ayurvedic doctor and sit down with a teaspoon of honey and try to define what the sweetness of life means to me so that I don’t go seeking it in the wrong places or at the bottom of a cookie jar.

Aware

My youngest daughter is a dancer. Last night I noticed how she moved across the kitchen floor. She didn’t know I was paying attention. All the years of dance practice have paid off. She embodies grace and elegance.

My daughter took a dance intensive a few summers ago. She was asked to pay attention to the passing of time, sunrises and sunsets, the way trees swayed in the breeze and how people moved from one place to another.

I loved the assignments and did them with her. We watched the sunrise and sunsets together for the duration of the class. I learned how to pay attention to how people moved—to how I moved. It became a form of meditation that has stuck with me.

I notice that I move differently after meditation and Yoga—graceful, more aware. I like to imagine Asana as body prayers, a form of art that assists me in connecting to the rhythms of my world. I believe this noticing, this way of seeing, is my practice.

Tree Pose

I walked with my husband in the rain to a long stretch of woods that is close to our home. I watched him search for the perfect picture while I stood underneath a canopy of green moss that was strung between several trees. I felt like I had my own personal green umbrella.

As I watched my husband I realized how at home he is behind the camera. In most of the family photos David is missing because he is taking the picture. Any pictures we do have of him are with a camera coving half his face. He looks at life thru his own lens. I enjoy taking pictures but mostly I enjoy watching him take pictures. I waited patiently while he wove in and out of the trees and then finally disappeared for a stretch of time.

The surrounding trees reminded me of the Yoga pose Vrik-Shahs-anna or Tree Pose. I slowly found my footing on the wet uneven ground and I began to try and hold this pose. As I wobbled back and forth I noticed thin ribbons of light streaming through the tree branches.

At one point I leaned against one of the damp and mossy trees to hold the pose for a little longer. I could feel the ripples in the bark and the knots pressing against my spine. I started to think about my own roots. What gives me nourishment? How am I rooted in my life? Where have I branched out? What needs pruning?

It felt different practicing outside. I felt more alive—creative—connected to the earth and to myself. I started to think of some of my other favorite nature spots. Maybe I should take up practicing outside more often. I found that my connection is deeper to my surroundings and to my self when I am outside. I have practiced outside but it has been in what I considered more optimal conditions, like summer and a flat surface—never in the woods in the rain. I need to allow myself a wider variety of experiences. Today I experienced the earth, the air, the weather, and how my body feels enveloped in a cool mist.

Life as a Pilgrimage

“I’ve read them all, these old-way wanderers, and often I’ve encountered versions of the same beguiling idea: that walking such paths might lead you–in Hudson’s phrase–to “slip back out of this modern world.” Repeatedly, these wanderers spoke of the tingle of connection, of walking as séance, of voices heard along the way. Bashō is said to have told a student that while wandering north he often spoke with long-dead poets of the past, including his twelfth-century forbear Saigyo: he therefore came to imagine his travels as conversations between “a ghost and a ghost-to-be.” Robert MacFarlane.

 My spiritual wanderings and practices have always been devotional. This is the golden thread that links all my studies and spirituality. My hunger and thirst for the Divine is my driving force. When I attempt to structure this energy—confine it, force it into a system or follow someone else’s path, my soul becomes inflamed. Something within me withers and I lose the connection to myself and to The Divine. Sand replaces moisture.

A few years ago I took a writing class offered by Rebecca Brown on Basho. She brought Basho to life. I was drawn to his connection to nature—his need to wander and how much he could say in just a few words. This class stayed with me. Basho stayed with me.

The clouds come and go,

providing a rest for all

the moon viewers

~~~

The whole family

all with white hair and canes

visiting graves

I’ve always been fascinated by the wandering poets-the mendicants and the poet-seers. My own life has been one of wandering, travel—moving—a nomadic lifestyle. I am finally learning to embrace my nomadic tendencies.  One of my fantasies growing up was to travel the globe with a backpack and a deck of tarot cards. I wanted to “read” for my supper. Now that I’m older I would add an ATM card and an IPad to my backpack.

I’m learning to be comfortable with my love of  wandering and with how I experience the Divine. I am acknowledging what inspires me. I haven’t found inspiration in the marketplace. I get overwhelmed by the wares—the teachers—the messages. Mostly the clamoring overshadows my own truth.

My spirituality is hard to define or label. So is my writing. Both are a hybrid. I have walked in many places. My Eastern and Western practices often clash. I’m learning to sit with the questions and the discrepancies. I have accepted the fact that I can’t put a tourniquet on my Eastern leanings. I can’t  stop the blood flow or contain my desire to run after the Gods like one of  Khrisna’s Gopis.

Along with Basho I feel connected to the Bhakti poets—especially the women poets.

The following was taken from here.

“Women Bhaktas wrote of the obstacles of home, family tensions, the absent husband, meaningless household chores, and restrictions of married life, including their status as married women. In many cases, they rejected traditional women’s roles and societal norms by leaving husbands and homes altogether, choosing to become wandering bhaktas; in some instances they formed communities with other poet-saints. Their new focus was utter devotion and worship of their Divine Husbands.”

“The imagery of bhakti poetry is grounded in the everyday, familiar language of ordinary people. Women bhaktas were simply individuals attempting to lead lives of devotion.”

“In the following poem, Janabai, a 13th century poet from a low-caste surda family, presents herself as shrugging off social conventions enshrining women’s honor (covering her body) and taking up musical instruments (cymbals and the veena) to go sing and dance in the marketplace. Janabai, though a low-caste woman, was brought up in the household of Namdev, a popular poet-saint, and thus treated with a certain amount of respect in light of the egalitarian ethos of Namdev’s message. Nonetheless, she is still well aware of her “place” in society; she is a servant, one who is perhaps more aware of social conventions because of her associations with Namdev, and is here apparently flaunting these very conventions, imagining herself as a woman who is utterly outside the bounds of respectability. Shedding these bonds of respectability, she is left with nothing. In essence, there is nothing standing between herself and her Beloved Vithoba, another name for Krishna, incarnation of the god Vishnu in human form.”

“Cast off all shame,

and sell yourself
 in the marketplace;

then alone 
can you hope

to reach the Lord.

Cymbals in hand,

a veena upon my shoulder,

I go about;
 who dares to stop me?

The pallav of my sari

falls away (A scandal!);

yet will I enter

the crowded marketplace

without a thought.

Jani says, My Lord

I have become a slut

to reach your home.

”Source: “Cast off all shame.” In Women Writing in India, 600 BC to the Present. Vol. 1. Edited by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita. New York: The Feminist Press at The City University of New York, 1991.

 Mahadeviyakkha or Mahadevi lived in the 12th Century in the south of India.

From an early age she was initiated into the worship of Shiva. She considered this initiation to be the most important moment of her life and she became a devoted worshipper of Shiva. The form of Shiva she worshipped was known as Chennamallikarjuna., which translates as ” The Beautiful Lord, white as jasmine.” Much of Mahadeviyakkha’s poetry refers to her vivid descriptions of her beautiful Lord. And indeed she always signed her poems  O Lord White as Jasmine.

Her family were highly critical of her ‘unorthodox’ behaviour and this led Mahadevia to renounce her worldly life. Mahadevi left her marriage and place of birth to live the life of a wandering mendicant. Mahadevi is said to have worn only long tresses. She felt clothes were a needless adornment for one seeking the Lord. (The following poem is my favorite)

I Have Maya for Mother in Law

I have Maya for mother-in-law,

the world for father-in-law;

three brothers-in-law, like tigers;

and the husband’s thoughts

are full of laughing women;

no god, this man,

And I cannot cross the sister-in-law.

But I will

give this wench the slip

and go cuckold my husband with

Hara, my Lord.

My mind is my maid:

by her kindness, I join

my Lord,

my utterly beautiful Lord

from the mountain peaks,

my lord white as jasmine,

and I will make Him

my good husband

~

I am going to write and wander. A lot. And of course I will be divining the signs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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