Monday, October 11, 2010

October, Lighting Candles

The Guest House  
by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Hello! This is my first post in what I hope will be a weekly or monthly post about all things heart--the energy center in our bodies, not the band! The idea for a blog started last winter, when I was looking for a place to explore ideas about yoga philosophy and how I relate to it in my life, and from a few nudges from my brother's darling wife. 

The blog is called Sut Nam Bonsai for a few reasons I can explain, and a few that are still landing in my understanding. The Sut Nam part translates roughly to the phrase or idea, True Self, in Sanskrit. The Bonsai part comes from a little box my husband gave me that contained, apparently, the fully-equipped kit for a  bonsai tree. He got the kit as a gift, and it sat in a junk crate in his office for as long as I knew him. That is, until he gave it to me, whence it sat on a junk shelf in MY office for a number of years. I finally admitted to myself that I also did not want to grow a real bonsai and the kit is now believed to be in a Goodwill pile somewhere, awaiting someone who will properly tend its process. So here is my bonsai, one with strong little roots that I aim to tend.

I can't really explain my reticence to open the kit. Maybe fear of something new. Maybe fundamental understanding of my Kapha dosha nature, which would a million times rather drink tea and eat brownies than hunch over a little plant with miniature pliers in hand. However, does anyone know - is this even necessary to do when growing a bonsai, or did Mr. Miyagi give this illustrious stewardship a bad name? See! Already so much to explore...


This week, I listened to an interview with Women's Yoga teacher Angela Farmer on a website called The Way of the Happy Woman. In this interview, which you should be able to download for a fee from the website, Angela said, "Own every part of yourself as far as you can, and go out into the world with [those parts of you] in your arms, and say, This is me."

It got me thinking about the ways in which I hide myself - the times I am quiet when I really have something to say, the times I drag my feet because I am scared to run and holler...essentially, the times that I tame myself out of fear that I will goof up, fall down, split a tooth, mar a reputation.

Already this sounds like a cry for feminine expression. Maybe it is.

I watched a preview for a movie the other night about the suppression of truth in a village (men!) and one woman's desire to uncover all the lies. My husband thought it looked like the dumbest movie ever. (In fairness, he thought it had imperialistic overtones. At least, I like to believe that's what he said. I don't think it was because it featured women as keepers of the truth...?) I sat next to him in our lazy little chair with its buttons missing and watched the preview, mouth-agape. The movie was, to me, one of those things that crossed my path at the perfect moment.

I've been thinking about suppression of spirit lately; how the analytical mind--the masculine spirit--likes to KNOW, intellectually, and the feminine spirit moves (cue Bono's singing) in, yes, more mysterious ways, with a knowing that is altogether deep and certain but less in need of the stories that we are used to stringing together in order to construct meaning in our days. (By masculine & feminine, I mean the essences of form and flow which reside is us all, regardless of gender.)

This is all to say I went to a yoga conference a few weeks ago and roomed with a woman who was talking about a documentary about witches and how women and some men were killed for dancing - ok, maybe it was in the woods - at night, but the point, or rather the problem, was that they weren't dancing in couples, in recognizable ways, but rather, they were dancing together and alone, and all were dancing in spirit. I haven't seen the documentary, but the way I thought about what they experienced, was that they were feared because they called up divine spirit within their knowing forms, without a church, a priest, a pastor, or a crucifix.

This sounds a little simplistic. Maybe I should see the documentary, because I'm not even clear what time period my roommate was talking about. Besides, details would really help here, because I'm afraid I am making complaints that I've heard others speak before. But do you ever have moments when you finally understand where a cliche came from? That moment rises clear and present in front of you, and isn't a cliche anymore?

That's happening to me now. I suppose my inner feminist is rousing from her cave. But she's looking something like a diva, too, and keeps demanding that someone bring her a cannoli.

It's weird that you can still get into a lot of trouble talking about these things - witch prosecution, I mean, not cannolis (unless I'm missing something). And so, trouble is what I hope these posts will be about: the things I have been used to hiding, out of fear of sounding shrill, fear of not quite "knowing" what I'm talking about, and fear of getting into trouble. Trouble has looked like different things at different points of my life. When I was young, it looked like censorious family members, jealous or critical friends, and a limited educational environment. As an adult, trouble takes on the energetic forms of my own mind, body, and spirit. Sometimes those forms are still relatives, still friends, but sometimes they are books, or clubs that I imagine others belong to that I cannot, or passing strangers I hook onto, asking them to carry my fear.

Sometimes fear can be my greatest teacher, showing me what is hurt or afraid. In other words, the places I need to let go. I'm much less interested in safety these days and much more into exploration. Exploration of healing, of taking great leaps. Exploration of mistakes, too. My friend Dhara, who is a great light in my life, once told me that she always says what she needs to say, but that she has learned how to apologize well. Her apology is not one of declension, but of sensitivity. Not of hiding, or back-tracking, but of moving forward in learning.

I tried this out the other night when, cliche of cliche's, my husband and I squabbled while hanging pictures in the dining room. We were embodying the opposite energetic essence of our gendered forms, however, which is nothing new to us. He wanted to slap a picture on the wall and nail it in. I was full of systems, standing back and surveying. I got out the tape measure, for chrissakes. We both were tired. One of us was crabby. And I snapped. I backed away from the picture and ranted about how I have to do everything myself. "Sorry I ever ask you to do anything at all," I said huffily, storming off into the kitchen.


In the past, I would have justified this anger, clung to accusation to stave off the incredible embarrassment I was feeling rather than admit that my words came from a dark and angry place of which even I wasn't aware. Secretly, I would have felt ashamed and confused, but outwardly I would have held my chin in the air and my tape measure aloft. Instead, as soon as I said the words, I heard how stupid they sounded. So I turned around and apologized. "I don't know why I said that," I said. "It's simply not true." Then I marveled at how injured my little heart can become, and how funnyits wild, sometimes inappropriate expressions are when it feels it is not being heard, or worse, when it is being heard but ignored--namely by me.

I didn't laugh outright in the moment, mind you. I shook my head like someone getting up after a bad tackle, and slapped the picture on the wall and called it a night. But these are the moments I am interested in. The ragged edges. The uncorked secrets. The stories drifting up from years of darkness, finding their voice and sinking into their songs.


  1. Kara: welcome, welcome, welcome to the Internet! your first post is finding me at such a similar place--suppression of spirit has been on my mind SO MUCH lately, and it's really both so comforting, interesting to hear someone else's thoughts and experiences on the subject.

    ahhh and the poem! i love the poem. cannot wait for the next post!

  2. ahh, yay! I'm so so glad you began this. I knew what you had to write would be something my little heart would love to read.. emotionally and my litte mind would find stimulating intellectually. I read your blog twice so far...savoring it like you know I savor my morning cup of coffee...a sip (a sentence) at a time with my hands wrapped around the cup.

  3. Kara, thank you for sharing your journey with me. It was amazing to sit with you in class and learn from your life energy... I consider myself lucky. I am so glad you are writing this blog - it provides a connection for me to your heart felt insights.


I love to hear your thoughts!