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On Being Curious September 16, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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Yoga Sūtra 1.2: yogaścittavŗttinirodhah

– “Yoga (‘union’) is the mastery of the fluctuations of the mind.”

Yoga Sūtra 1.3: tadā draştuh svarūpe’vasthānam

 – “[When the fluctuations of the mind are mastered] the Seer abides/rests in their own true nature.”

Take a seat, get comfortable, and do that 90-second thing. Or, sit for 5, 15, 20, or 30 moments. Watch your breath and get curious. Bring awareness to your awareness, notice what you notice. There is so much, after all, to notice. We can smell things and taste things; we can feel different textures and sensations on our skin (and even on the inside of our body); we can see and hear – even with our eyes closed; and every sensation, every bit of information has the possibility of conjuring up a thought or memory that brings more sensation, more information. Yes, it’s true that the more you sit – even for short periods of time – the more there is the possibility that your mind will stop bouncing around like wild horses, elephants, little puppies, or curious monkeys. The stillness and quite you can cultivate in your mind, the more there is the possibility of insight, of seeing things in a special way – and seeing what is constant.

“After the day is gone we shall go out, breathe deeply, and look up – and there the stars will be, unchanged, unchangeable.”

– quoted from The Stars: A New Way to See Them by H. A. Rey

However, there’s also the possibility that the mind will keep bopping around looking for something on which it can focus and then – like a dog who’s spotted a squirrel – rushing off in another direction. In fact, the longer we practice the more we understand that our mind, just like a little puppy or a curious monkey, is designed to explore and play. Furthermore, the more we practice, the more we understand the merit of playing and exploring our mind.

“Now run along and play, but don’t get into trouble.’ George promised to be good. But it is easy for little monkeys to forget.”

– from Curious George by Margaret and H. A. Rey

Hans Augusto Reyersbach, better known as H. A. Rey, was the author of The Stars: A New Way to See Them and the co-author of children’s books featuring Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat. Born today in 1898 he and his wife Margaret (born Margarete Elisabeth Waldstein, May 16, 1906) were German Jews who originally met in their hometown of Hamburg but would both end up in Brazil and reconnect in Rio de Janeiro. It was in Brazil that H. A. changed his last name to Rey and Margarete changed her first name to Margaret. They married in Brazil and took a honeymoon cruise to Europe before settling in Paris, France. During the cruise, their pet marmoset monkeys died – and perhaps these pets were the beginning of the idea that became George, because when they settled in France they began creating the drawings and stories that would become “Curious George and Friends.

George, however, did not start off as “George.” Like the Reys, he went through a series of name changes, starting with “Fifi” and “Zozo.”  He also has different names in different translations, including (but not limited to) Jordi (in Catalan), Peter Pedal (in Danish), Coco (in German), Golgol in Galacian), and Nicke Nyfiken (in Swedish). I am particular fond of “Peter Pedal,” because it makes me think of how Curious George, and his creators, escaped the Nazis. A back story that is as much of an adventure as the stories themselves.

“It seems ridiculous to be thinking about children’s books. [But] life goes on, the editors edit, the artists draw, even during wartime.”

– H. A. Rey

Margaret, who H. A. originally remembered as the kid sister who slid down banisters, ended up in Brazil specifically because she was escaping the Nazi’s rise of power in Germany. In 1939, the now married Reyes wrote and illustrated a book called Rafi and the 9 Monkeys. From the beginning it was an equal collaboration, but only H. A.’s name appeared on the original publications. (On a side note, Rafi would become “Raffi” when the book was published in the United Kingdom and “Cecily” when it was published in the United States.) Rafi was a giraffe whose friends and family had been captured and placed in a zoo. She makes friends with a family of monkeys. The most prominent of the nine monkeys would become “George” and by the time the war broke out, the Reys had been contracted to publish a book featuring the gregarious monkey. They were working on other books as well; however, in June of 1940 the couple decided to put everything on hold and flee from the Nazi invasion. H. A. built two bicycles and, taking little more than the drawings and manuscript for “Fifi,” they headed south. Their four-month journey eventually landed them in New York City, where the first Curious George book was published (in 1941).

One of the things that aided their escape was the fact that they were officially Brazilian citizens. Another thing that helped them was “Fifi.” At one point in their escape, an official suspected them of beings German spies (because they were Jewish people with German accents and Brazilian visas), but let them go when he searched their belongings and found nothing more than a children’s story.

“George can do what kids can’t do. He can paint a room from the inside. He can hang from a kite in the sky. He can let the animals out of their pens on the farm. He can do all these naughty things that kids would like to do.”

– Margaret Rey

“Curious George does exactly what he’s supposed to do for his age and development (and species)!  By nature and by name, he is curious.  He explores his world fully and completely.  This is his job as a young, continually developing little person, er, monkey.  This is why my kids love the show–they relate so well to George’s genuinely curious nature and all of the honest (and funny) mistakes that ensue.  But what I find most refreshing about “Curious George” is The Man in the Yellow Hat.

The Man in the Yellow Hat never punishes George for his mistakes.  He is more concerned with solving the problem.  The man helps George put things away, fix things that broke, apologize to people who were involved in any indiscretions, and generally restore order.”

 – quoted from “Why I Like Curious George” posted on the blog Parenting From Scratch by Kelly Bartlett

We can learn a lot from Curious George – on and off the mat – but first we have to give our minds something with which it can play. Please join me today (Wednesday, September 16th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a simultaneously playful and meditative yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (This is the playlist entitled “07112020 An Introduction.”)

“The object of meditation is to still the mind, and the fastest way to do that is to move your body.”

– Gabrielle Roth

### BE CURIOUS ###