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Seeing All the Sides of the Story (the “missing” Saturday post) April 25, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Life, Music, Philosophy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. “Happy Ridván!” to those celebrating the “the Most Great Festival.” Many blessings, also, to those who are Counting the Omer.


[This is the “missing” post is related to Saturday, April 24th. 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.]


“Everybody knows a hundred stories, you know, a thousand stories – the question is: Why does this story pick on you? Why this story and not that story? My guess is now this: the story or poem you find to write is the story or poem that has some meaning that you haven’t solved in it, that you haven’t quite laid hands on. So your writing—it is a way of understanding it, what its meaning, the potential meaning, is. And the story that you understand perfectly, you don’t write. You know what the meaning is; there’s nothing there to nag your mind about it. A story that’s one for you is the one you have to work to understand.”


– quoted from “A Conversation” (with John Baker, 1989) in Talking with Robert Penn Warren, edited by Floyd C. Watkins, John T. Hiers, and Mary Louise Weeks


Established April 24, 1800, the Library of Congress houses over 168 million items, in over 460 languages. These materials, housed in four buildings, as well as online, include millions of books and printed materials, recordings, photographs, maps, sheet music, manuscripts, “incunabula,” rare books, legal items, and other items designated as non-classified or special. While the Library of Congress was opened to the public in 1897 and is the de facto library of the United States and “the library of last resort” for all US citizens, the general public cannot randomly and at will check out books from the Library of Congress. However, if you find your way into its stacks – virtually or in real life, you will find stories by a number of authors, artists, composers, and cartographers who share the library’s birthday, including Anthony Trollope (b. 1815), Carl Spitteler (b. 1845), Robert Penn Warren (b. 1905), Sue Grafton (b. 1940), Eric Bogosian (b. 1953), and Kelly Clarkson (b. 1982. You will also find within those annals, the stores of those same authors, artists, composers, and cartographers.

Take Robert Penn Warren, for instance. A Southern Gentleman, if ever there was a Southern Gentleman, Robert Penn Warren was born in Guthrie, Kentucky, close to the Tennessee-Kentucky border. He spent his high school and undergraduate years in Tennessee, where he was a member of the poetry group known as “The Fugitives.” Some members of that group, including Mr. Warren, formed a group known as the “Southern Agrarians” (as well as the “Twelve Southerners” and a variety of other combinations of the same), which produced a “pro-Southern agrarian” collection of essays called I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (1930). Robert Penn Warren’s contribution to the “manifesto” was “The Briar Patch” – a pro-segregation essay that was considered so “progressive” by some of the others in the group that it was almost excluded from the collection.

Now, right about here is the point where someone who knows that I’m Black and from the South might wonder why exactly I would highlight, even seem to celebrate, a man (albeit a poet) whose views are so antithetical to my own. I would wonder too, if that were the whole story. But it’s not, it’s not even close.

And, if you know anything about me, you know I’m going to suggest going deeper. Getting more of the story and, as Patanjali suggests, really focusing-concentrating-meditating on the various ways the story (and the subject of the story) changes in terms of form, time, and condition, allows us to see cause-and-effect at work/play.

Yoga Sūtra 3.16: pariņāmah-traya-samyamāt-atīta-anāgata-jñānam


– “By making Samyama on the three sorts of changes comes the knowledge of past and future.”

After graduating summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Robert Penn Warren earned a Masters at the University of California, Berkeley; studied at Yale University for a bit; and obtaining a B. Litt as a Rhodes Scholar at New College, Oxford in England. He even received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts which allowed him to study in Italy while the country was under the control of Benito Mussolini.

He held all the national poet titles designated by the Library of Congress: serving as “Consultant in Poetry” 1944 – 1945 and then “Poet Laureate Consultant” 1986 – 1987.  He won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (for All the King’s Men, perhaps his best known work) and both the 1958 and 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry – making him the only person to win a Pulitzer in both Poetry and “Fiction.” (Last week, I slightly erroneously, identified Thornton Wilder as a winner a Pulitzer in both Drama and “Fiction;” however the latter prize was technically known as the “Pulitzer Prize for the Novel” when Mr. Wilder won it.) He also won the National Book Award for Poetry (for the collection that won the 1958 Pulitzer); was selected by the National Endowment of the Humanities to give the “Jefferson Lecture” in 1974; and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980, a MacArthur Fellow in 1981, and the National Medal of Arts in 1987.

And that’s not only a small portion of his accolades; it’s only part of his story….

As if devoting a whole novel to a “controversial,” “radical” politician with “progressive” ideology wasn’t enough, Robert Penn Warren’s essay “Divided South Searches Its Soul” was published in the July 9, 1956 issue of Life magazine and an expanded version of the essay became the booklet Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South. He would write another Life essay, in 1961, that became a book entitled The Legacy of the Civil War. As if his words alone were not enough to walk back his previous words, Mr. Warren started sharing his (very Southern and very prominent) platform with Black Civil Rights activists through a series of interviews published as Who Speaks for the Negro? (1965).

“The asking and the answering which history provides may help us to understand, even to frame, the logic of experience to which we shall submit. History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.”


– quoted from The Legacy of the Civil War by Robert Penn Warren

Before publishing the collection, Robert Penn Warren traveled around the country and recorded interviews with leaders like United States Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (the first African-American elected to Congress from New York); Whitney Young (of the National Urban League); Dr. Kenneth Clark (the husband half of the husband-wife team of psychologists whose work was cited in the landmark Supreme Court trial “Brown v. Board of Education”); Bayard Rustin (one of the organizers of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”); the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and Malcolm X. He also interviewed authors like James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison; as well as (then) students like Ezell A. Blair, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Lucy Thornton, Jean Wheeler, and Ruth Turner; and additional college students at Jackson State University and Tougaloo College (both of which are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Mississippi, although the latter is private and Christian-affiliated).

For a variety of reasons, about some of which we can only speculate, a lot of interviews were conducted but not included in the book. These include interviews with educator Septima Poinsetta Clark (who became known as “the Queen Mother” and “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights movement); the businessman Vernon Jordan; Gloria Richardson (one of the five women who were recognized as Civil Rights leaders – but not allowed to speak – during the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”); and Andrew Young (who would go on to serve in the United States Congress, as well as the 14th U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the 55th Mayor of Atlanta).

The published collection (which was reissued in 2014), additional correspondence and notes, and copies of the recordings – which include interviews that were not published in the book – can be found at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History (“The Nunn Center”) at the University of Kentucky, at the Yale University Library archives, and (naturally) at the Library of Congress. Additionally, the Nunn Center provides digital (and searchable) archives and there is also a digital exhibit hosted by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities and the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries at Vanderbilt University.

Just to be clear, neither Robert Penn Warren nor those he interviewed seemed to (as far as I can tell) steer clear of controversial subjects – including violence with the Civil Rights Movement; social/cultural versus public/political segregation; cultural assimilation; the difference between the North and the South, as well as the difference between the different classes in the United States and the importance of history, education, and wealth in the United States. Mr. Warren has been quoted as stating, “The individual is an embodiment of external circumstances, so that a personal story is a social story.” In keeping with this idea, he not only asked people to define what it meant to be “a Negro;” he also asked their opinions about the works of people like W. E. B. Dubois, the Swedish economist and sociologist Dr. Gunnar Myrdal, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. Additionally, he asked people to share their thoughts on abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown – not to mention Confederate heroes like Robert E. Lee.

“‘It is easy,’ I said, ‘I can change that picture of the world he carries around in his head.’


‘I can give him a history lesson.’

‘A history lesson?’

‘Yes, I am a student of history, don’t you remember? And what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good-and-bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.’”


 – (Jack and Anne) quoted from All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren


Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.


“Everybody knows a thousand stories. But only one cocklebur catches in your fur and that subject is your question. You live with that question. You may not even know what that question is. It hangs around a long time. I’ve carried a novel as long as twenty years, and some poems longer than that.”


– Robert Penn Warren quoted from a 1981 interview


Let’s Share Some Kiss My Asana Stories!!

Last year during Kiss My Asana, I shared a few people’s yoga stories; however, to kick off the 8th Annual Kiss My Asana yogathon, Mind Body Solutions, shared bits of stories (see links below) from people who directly benefit from the yoga practices offered by MBS.

This annual yogathon benefits Mind Body Solutions, which was founded by Matthew Sanford to help those who have experienced trauma, loss, and disability find new ways to live by integrating both mind and body. Known for their adaptive yoga classes, MBS provides “traditional yoga” classes, workshops, and outreach programs. They also train yoga teachers and offer highly specialized training for health care professionals. This year’s yogathon is only a week long! Seven days, starting yesterday (Saturday), to do yoga, share yoga, and help others. By participating in the Kiss My Asana yogathon you join a global movement, but in a personal way. In other words, you practice yoga… for 7 days. And you can start today!!

The yogathon raises resources and awareness. So, my goal this year is to post some extended prāņāyāma practices and to raise $400 for Mind Body Solutions. You can do yoga starting today. You can share yoga be inviting a friend to one of my classes or by forwarding one of the blog posts. You can help others by donating or, if you are not able to donate, come to class Saturday – Wednesday (or request a class you can do on your own) and practice the story poses on Thursday and Friday so that I can make a donation on your behalf.

You can add 5 minutes of yoga (or meditation) to your day; you can learn something new about your practice; or even teach a pose to someone close to you – or even to one of your Master Teachers/Precious Jewels. If you want to combine this practice with your Kiss My Asana practice, ask someone to tell you their yoga story!!!


A little bit of Rodrigo Souza’s story…


A little bit about Mary Peterson’s story…



Tell me a story.

In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story.

Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.

The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name.

Tell me a story of deep delight.”


– quoted from the poem “Tell Me a Story” by Robert Penn Warren






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