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FTWMI: All These Easter Eggs Are About Hope… Not Blind Optimism August 23, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

For Who Missed It: The following was originally posted in 2020. Class details and some vital information have been updated. (Please pardon any formatting issues; I am having technical issues.)

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– quoted from “The Man in the Arena” speech by former President Theodore Roosevelt (delivered April 23, 1910, Sorbonne, Paris)

It is not uncommon, when we turn inward, to find a head full of doubt; but, we also find a road of promise. We may find fear; but also strength, wisdom, and courage. Even when life is hard, strenuous, if we keep on pushing, we get a little bit stronger. There may be cracks, but that’s how the light gets in and…

OK, you get the picture. There’s a point where certain kinds of inspiration becomes a little syrupy, a little much, and even a little trite. This can especially be true when we are enduring a challenging time – or, as is the case now, challenging times. But, you know what never gets syrupy? You know what never gets trite? The story of someone who demonstrates that despite their hard times, they can still feel the spirit in their soul. The story of someone who is in a dark place, and yet still express gratitude for their unconquerable soul. The story of someone who may be far from home, with broken bones and a broken heart, a little rusty, but still runnin’.

We may not always want to hear one of those stories of people who are having the same hard time as us – or a significantly harder time than us – and still manage to find some joy in life, smile, and move forward. Sometimes we want to wallow in our muck, moan a few verses of “Oh, woe is me” and “Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen.” And we absolutely get to do that. Everybody gets to deal, cope, grieve, rail (or rage) against the machine in their own way and in their own time. But, let’s be honest, even that gets old and trite.

You know what never gets old? The stories of people who wrestle with the demons inside and outside, seen and unseen, and are still unbroken never gets old.

“I will now make a confession: It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver … the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you.”

– quoted from a letter to William Ernest Henley, written by Robert Louis Stevenson

Born today in 1849 in Gloucester, England, William Ernest Henley was a poet, a literary critic, an editor, and poet whose work and life has inspired billions of people around the world, including presidents and prime ministers, royalty, soldiers, athletes, captains of industries (and of starships), and other writers. Even though he wrote and published thousands of poems, he is remembered for one: an originally untitled work that we now call “Invictus.” It is a poem that in many ways encapsulates the old fashioned understanding of stoicism.

In modern times, we often think of someone who stuffs down their pain and pretends like it doesn’t exists. We might even associate the philosophy with having a “stiff upper lip” – which is the characteristic of someone who “grins and bears it” (but is in too much pain to actually grin). We might even think of someone who is stoic as someone who is unhappy. However, to the ancient stoics like Epictetus, Seneca, and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius stoicism was about finding happiness within a given fate, which meant accepting ones fate and figuring out how to move forward. And, William Ernest Henley was nothing if not stoic.

Henley wrote a whole slew of poems, including “Invictus,” which are referred to as his hospital poems (and one of his published collections is called In Hospital), because he spent a great deal of time in the hospital. From the age of 12, he suffered from a kind of tuberculosis that affected his bones and resulted in partial amputation of his left leg by the age of 20. His boisterous attitude, massive size, cleverness, and ability to laugh (loudly) – not to mention his one leg – inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to create the character Long John Silver in Treasure Island. (Although she died at a young age, Henley’s daughter Wendy shared some of her dad’s spirit and inspired one of the main characters of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.)

Not long after the amputation of his left leg, doctors told Henley that they need to amputate his right leg. Henley fought against the idea, sought out other treatments, and eventually came under the care of the surgeon Joseph Lister, whose work with antiseptic surgery would save billions of lives (and inspire the creation of Listerine™). Dr. Lister, thorough a variety of treatments, was able to save Henley’s leg and enable Henley to live a relatively active life for almost thirty years. It was during one of those Lister-related hospital stays that Henley wrote “Invictus.”

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

– quoted from “The Sermon on the Mount,” The Gospel According to Matthew (7:14)

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

– quoted from “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

Please join me for a “spirited” virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Tuesday, August 23rd) at 12:00 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “08232020 Henley’s Invictus Day”]

(NOTE: The playlists have slightly different before/after practice content.)

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.)




If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Hotline. You can also call the TALK line if you are struggling with addiction or involved in an abusive relationship. The Lifeline network is free, confidential, and available to all 24/7. YOU CAN TALK ABOUT ANYTHING.

If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgement-free place to talk, you can also click here to contact the TrevorLifeline (which is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors).



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