The Song

My heart sings for small towns
not for the crumbling, faded houses
or the hollow eyes that inhabit them
but for the spaces in between humanity
the thick undergrowth of untouched hillsides
the silence that surrounds you
as you emerge at the street's abrupt end

winding roads turning to dust
as they weave through valleys
and stitch the mountains together
no turns in sight as you faithfully follow
for miles to a singular destination
in the distant country, past oceans
made of tall grasses and grazing cattle

where the open sky is unhindered
by smog and skyscrapers
and you can feel yourself shrinking
beneath the infinity of distant stars
or cradled by the buoyant brushstrokes
of soft clouds in an endless canvas of blue
swallowed up, dissolved, and made whole again all at once

I've always found safety in the subtle symphony
of places far away from people
the silent prayer of bare feet against the warm earth
sunlight filtered through gently rustling leaves
the tender cadence of countless other lives
swelling and saturating every cell of my being
bowing down in reverence to this ancient rhythm

Separation from source
is the truest form of suffering
caged inside the arrogant design of human kind
cut off from the wind and light
set aside to sit in sterile cells
tangled up in selfish isolation
eating ourselves alive

No, I'd rather wade into the cool embrace
the filthy, glistening grandeur of the river
memorize the ever changing melody
of chirping birds and tiny insects
the healing buzz of their constant vibration
lapping at the shores of my truest self
reminding me of my part in the song

Sweet Air

Winter wipes away all memory
of the sweetness of summer air
it stops me in my tracts
when my senses are infiltrated again
with the intoxicating scent of soft petals

The cacophony of sensation
that saturates the warmer months
never fails to fill my soul
with reverence and awe
for our magnificent mother

Inspiration seeps into every pore
when the world reawakens
at my doorstep
the miracle of resurrection
witnessed once again

When all hope is nearly lost
the tender blades of grass whisper
"just give us one more day"
I fall to my knees upon it
and gratefully obey

Enough is Enough

Walking the line between
contentment and complacency
trying to find the middle ground
of gratitude and grasping
satisfaction and searching for more

Focusing only on injustice and suffering
is sure to wear you down fast
but somehow it feels selfish to
simply enjoy my own lucky lot in life
without using my privilege to fight for more

I'm far from ungrateful
for how far we've come
even though I know we can still do better
I don't want to seem greedy
asking for more than what I've got

There are so many that have less than me
I don't pretend to have earned my present place
I take no pride in a roll of the dice
but sometimes it's still hard not to feel cheated
when you were promised so much more

I don't take for granted
clean water and fresh foods
but should that mean I have to accept
a 40 hour work week not providing
any sense of true security?

Humanity has a timeline now
that only I seem to acknowledge
is it frivolous to ask for dignity and mutual respect
on a planet that is slowly dying
under our overcrowded feet?

Why fight for far off goals
I truly believe we won't even
have a chance to reach?
My righteous indignation has
long since faded away

Most days I wonder whether
I should just bite my tongue
and be thankful that it isn't far worse
I know that it could be
that it will be

Focus

there is no peace for
a heart hunted down
by phantom fears

what you seek
will soon be found
magnified, multiplied

lungs filled with flowers
dark and haunted hovels
iridescent crystals of consciousness

each frame of reality
a microcosm
of unending eternity

selections from innumerable
fractals of possibility
manifested as moments

focus, focus, focus
fear, death, joy, and love
are equally present in everything

don't be afraid
of the uncertainty
that engulfs you

it is the soft caress
of the brutal, boiling sun
that sets you free 

Little Moments

I used to think the little things
were not enough to fill me up
fear seems so much larger and closer
than the morning sun
perched on treetops

but now I know how to see it
how to bundle up all those little moments
like so many love notes from the universe
and boil them down to make a balm
that heals and fortifies the restless soul

I know how to let the little moments in
I've seen them shrink those fears
lightening the load of a heavy, hurting heart
don't underestimate the power
of fresh cut grass and spring showers

the world offers refuge
for all those who seek it
transcribed into bird songs,
babbling brooks, and the rustling
of newly budded leaves

the irony of life
is overlooking what we need
straining our necks to see the big picture
without savoring the safety found
in stillness and simplicity

when the world gets too large
you can find me with the small things
wrapped in morning dewdrops
dissolving my self into intricate
mosaics of green

Having Enough

There is purpose in pain
there is salvation in suffering
there is peace is powerlessness
teetering on the edge of oblivion
is a balancing act that brings great strength
blessings disguised as burdens
bring unsuspecting hearts new perspectives
sometimes joy is hard to find
in a life of lavish excess
the simple soothing sensations
of aching needs finally met
are lost in the gratuitous gamut 
of wealth and superfluous luxury
even small happinesses are enough
to feed a truly hungry heart
there is no need to fear the fall
it offers us cleansing from distraction
a chance to uncover the real pleasures
of a life unclouded by greed
we flee from the emptiness
clinging desperately to all we have
forgetting that letting go is a lesson
that teaches us we were enough all along

Don’t Look at the Wall

I recently read that one of the most important tips given to new race car drivers is, “whatever you do, don’t look at the wall.” When I heard this, it immediately reminded me of one of my very first practice driving sessions with my mom when I was a teenager. As I was driving 25mph down a street in my dinky little home town, my sister yells out from the back seat for us to look at a house to our right. Without thinking, I turn my head to look. In just that one split second, turning my attention away from the road and just to the side, I had swerved the car and nearly driven up onto the sidewalk. Whether you realize it or not, where you place your focus is the direction you are heading.

We say something similar when teaching arm balances in yoga. In teacher training when we practiced cues for bakasana (crow pose) we were told to always make sure to emphasize the importance of our gaze. If you look straight down between your hands as you try to lower your body’s weight forward onto the backs of the arms, you’re inevitably going to tumble forward and possibly hit your head on the floor. The trick is to look a few inches ahead of you. Looking forward, but not down. Our gaze is a reflection of our focus and intention and a reminder of how important these things are.

I think these physical examples are an excellent demonstration of how this same principle applies in more abstract matters. If you look at the wall, you’ll hit the wall. If you look at the floor below you, that’s where you’re going. If you focus on the potential problems or possible ways you might fail, that is where you’re going to find yourself in the future. It seems so obvious when I think about it in this context.

My anxiety is always directing me to the worse possible outcome. It would be great if I were able to print out a pie graph of my mental energy expenditure from day to day. I’d be willing to bet that 90% of my thoughts are about what I’m afraid of or what could go wrong. Even when things usually go pretty well for me, I always immediately find the next fear to latch onto as soon as one disappears. Somehow my brain convinces itself that it is doing this to keep me safe. And to a certain extent, it is smart to contemplate obstacles that may come up and how we can deal with them in the event that they do. However, this is not really what my anxiety is doing. It’s not coming up with calm, rational contingency plans. It’s telling me that the experience will be inherently stressful and traumatizing and trying to find a way to avoid it all together.

It’s really helpful for me to remember the real life examples of the way our focus determines our experience and even has an influence on future outcomes. Yoga gives us ample opportunities to practice these principles before putting them into action in other areas of our lives. Getting into an arm balance is scary. You’re quite likely to fall down the first few times you try. But if we focus on that fear or how it feels to fall and hurt ourselves, we’re never going to master bakasana! Focus on what’s in front of you. Focus on where you want to be or what you want to see happen. If you focus on falling you’re going to fall or perhaps never let yourself try in the first place.

Realizing and reminding myself that my focus on fear is not helping me to avoid it, but instead propelling me toward it, is exactly where I need to begin. Normally when I contemplate shifting my thoughts to the positives and letting go of my anxiety about any given situation, I become afraid that by not looking at the scary bits, they’ll sneak up on me or something. It’s like trying to keep your eyes on a spider at the corner of your room so that it won’t suddenly appear on your arm. But what if staring at that spider was an invitation for it to come over to you? You’d probably keep yourself busy with whatever you’re doing and leave it alone.

It’s time for me to start giving my energy to the good things in life that I want to create, not the parts that I want to avoid. If I focus on the good, I’ll naturally move past or through the obstacles in due time. When I let myself focus on only the scary parts of life, that is all I’m going to experience, whether my fears come to fruition or not. I’ll have already lived the worst of them out in my mind anyway. It’s okay to let myself think about the good things that might happen too or the things I hope will happen. It’s safe to let myself be happy. It’s safe to imagine a future full of positivity and light. In fact, that’s the first step towards manifesting that future.

Trusting in Lost Memories

silencing the inner chatter
to hear the soft hum of celestial wisdom
lifting myself above the tumultuous tides
of my own mistaken mind

finding stillness in the radio static of consciousness
to tune in to the salient source of everything
surrendering the obsession for contemplating complex patterns
in favor of opening to the energy trying to be channeled in

life's challenge is a sweet irony
a call to remember what we are
amidst the chaos of time and space
to pause long enough to transcend them

humbling ourselves to the unknowable truth
to trust in forces we cannot control
to be guided by an unseen hand
down a foggy, confused path

learning to mirror the beauty of faith
reflected back in the eyes of the innocent
by the joyous confidence of children and small beings
with blindly open hearts

our trust will not be betrayed
only the temptation to doubt will mislead us
even so we are never lost
only learning new lessons

Connected

Why do I see this body
as the limits of my container
the pieces of matter that comprise me
continue on into the cosmos

even the air between you and I 
is saturated with shifting energy
carrying currents of information
through supposed emptiness

connection is everywhere I look
from the veins and tissues of this body
to the veins of mycelium and root systems underground
to the streams and rivers snaking across the earth

the illusion of separation is still poignant somehow
despite the new science that shows we are one
could I learn to feel beyond this form?
can I lift the veil of this life?

to recognize myself in all that I see
is to relinquish this unruly fear of reality
freedom is remembering a fate intertwined
uncovering a deep compassion for all of existence

To love myself is to love the world
to love the world is to love myself
we are inextricably intertwined
we are one in the same