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Feb 2015

Greetings yoga friends -

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to plod through 100 dusty yoga volumes searching for that perfect opening quote.
You only have to speak aloud your favorite Mary Oliver poem, 
and the soft bodies of the students will melt in anticipation of a great class...

(Wild Geese and The Moon - detail - by Tanikuki)

I am of course horrifically paraphrasing Wild Geese, my (and many millions of others) favorite poem by Mary Oliver. (And, yes, if there IS a layer of Dante's inferno reserved for doggerel poets, I am probably on my way there as you read this...)

So I was thrilled to hear Mary Oliver read Wild Geese aloud during a sweet interview she gave to Krista Tippet on public broadcasting.

I learned a couple of things from hearing my favorite poet in her own relaxed and personal voice. 

For a start, despite my assumption that she would be rather circumspect about organized religion, she comes across as very sympathetic to the discipline of religious life. The structure of a day which finds joy not by happenstance but by intentional practice. Certainly that relates to her discipline of writing. And editing. And discarding to rewrite from scratch. At a sharp 84 years, she makes clear that her seemingly effortless skill with words includes honing and refining and even being willing to renew her whole approach. How might that relate to a yoga practice? Hmmm - I'll get back to you on that...

And yet, she never for a moment imagines that discipline alone is enough. "Attention without Feeling," she says, "is merely Reporting." If you want your life to be a Field Guide about living, that might work. But, she says, it takes cultivating the quality of empathy to transform mere attention - at whatever level of mastery - into true devotion. And it is clear that this religious sounding word is important for her - part of the quality of how she wants to not just observe but be part of our world.

Krista asked this remarkably humble spokeswoman of our secular era what she felt was the status of her spiritual life. She paused, a little nonplussed perhaps by such a directly personal question. Finally she responded with a trinity which I would gladly have chiseled on my own gravestone. "Well, I think I have become kinder. More people oriented. And more willing to grow older."


Want to join with yoga friends - old and new - at the annual Mount Hood Lodge Yoga Retreat? It's the first weekend in October, co-led by myself and my yoga teacher friend and fellow climber Alissa, and includes lodging, food, 8 hours of yoga instruction, reading and hiking time, all for an affordable $250. We have sold out the last two years, so if you are interested, please register early at

Namaste - Eugene