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Where To Begin… Understanding How Things Work (a “missing” post for a missing class) April 13, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan.

[This post is related to Monday, April 12th. Although I cancelled class last night, you can request a substitute audio recording via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

“Today it’s going to cost us twenty dollars

To live….”

– from the poem “How Things Work” by Gary Soto

Where to begin? That’s a question that applies to the series of events that led me to cancel class Monday night’s class AND also a question that can be asked in relation to any other series of events, on and off the mat. Sometimes we start at the end and work backwards; sometimes we begin in the middle. Other times, we find ourselves at the beginning, but out of context….

Take the first little bit of the poem above. If you read it a year ago, five years ago, twenty years ago, you would wonder about the rest. ‘Where is (s)he going with this?’ you might ask as you scan the rest of the page, looking for the rest of the poem. Reading it today you might think it’s a reference to George Floyd.

Just to be clear, it’s not a reference to George Floyd; however, the poem is about cause and effect. So often, when we take the time to consider cause and effect, we look at the most immediate action or sets of actions – we look for direct causality. However, as any mystic (and definitely any yogi familiar with the sūtras will tell you) seeds planted today may come to fruition tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week, or the next month, or the next year, or the next decade. That doesn’t mean that an exercise in causality is an exercise in futility. It simply means we need to consider where we begin and recognize that even the beginning – that we are calling a cause – is also an ending – in other words, an effect.

“As far as I can tell, daughter, it works like this:

You buy bread from a grocery, a bag of apples

From a fruit stand, and what coins

Are passed on helps others buy pencils, glue,

Tickets to a movie in which laughter

Is thrown into their faces.

If we buy a goldfish, someone tries on a hat.

If we buy crayons, someone walks home with a broom.

A tip, a small purchase here and there,

And things just keep going. I guess.”

– from the poem “How Things Work” by Gary Soto

Gary Soto, who was born April 12, 1952, is an award-winning Mexican-American poet and novelist whose work includes sixteen collections of poetry, over twenty young adult and children’s books, the libretto for the opera Nerdlandia, and eight memoirs. He’s also an award-winning professor, and film producer whose work has been translated into French, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. He’s received the Discovery-The Nation Prize and the California Library Association’s John and Patricia Award (twice). In addition to earning a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, he was once named NBC Person of The Week (1995). In answering a question about what inspires him, Professor Soto wrote, “I’m also a listener. I hear lines of poetry issue from the mouths of seemingly ordinary people. And, as a writer, my duty is not to make people perfect, particularly Mexican Americans. I’m not a cheerleader. I’m one who provides portraits of people in the rush of life.” And, in writing about people’s day-to-day experiences, he writes about cause and effect, and about “how things work.”

Several years ago, when I picked Gary Soto as one of my “April is Poetry Month / Kiss My Asana” poets, I picked two poems illustrating cause and effect in a really bright, sunny, lighthearted way. However, life is not all sunshine, white blossoms, geraniums, and goldfish – and neither is that all one will find in work written by Gary Soto. He has written about the “Sudden Loss of Dignity” that comes with aging as well as about the heartbreak of first love (and the heartbreak of not making the team) and about the decisions people make when they are bullied (as well as when they are the bully). Even when he writes about romance within the context of the afterlife, he writes about cause and effect.

So, we can consider the “good” that trickles down from a single action and also the “not good” that sprouts from a single action. The point of the practice is to bring some conscious awareness to how things are connected, one and off the mat, so that we become more conscious about how our thoughts, words, and deeds affect us and the people around us. Then, not only do we begin to notice “How Things Work,” we also begin “Looking Around, Believing” that we can make a difference – because we DO make a difference. The question is: What difference are you making?

“How strange that we can begin at anytime.

With two feet we get down the street.

With a hand we undo the rose.

With an eye we lift up the peach tree

And hold it up to the wind – white blossoms

At our feet. Like today, I started”

– quoted from the poem “Looking Around, Believing” by Gary Soto

There is no playlist for the (Monday) Common Ground practice.

If you are interested in my previous Gary Soto-inspired musings, here is a 2018 blog post about vinyasa and vinyasa krama and 2019 blog post about why we begin where we begin.



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