Leaves Falling: The Beauty of Disillusion

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The following is a version of an article I wrote for Conscious Life News

 
Dogma of Fall Leaves

I wish I knew the beauty of leaves falling.

To whom are we beautiful when we go?

~David Ignato


And to whom are we beautiful as we go? This poem seems to point to the fact that even in our failing, there is a part of creation and therefore a part of ourselves that can grant a magnificence to any loss.

A beautiful concept. A bittersweet truth. Perhaps this is why Autumn is so colorful: it is the opulent  funeral procession of the death of so much. It is the rush of fireworks before the quiet stillness of winter.


Shiva Nataraj

Shiva

Many of the Hindu statues tell stories and offers insight which transcends dogma. The Shiva Nataraj, the Dancing Shiva, is a storytelling icon depicting Shiva, the creator of the universe, and illustrates his five acts which, in part, give understanding of death and dissolution. Through understanding the Shiva Nataraj, we too might understand "the beauty of leaves falling" as penned by poet David Ignato.

This statue depicts a person with several arms holding different tools, his hair on fire, body wreathed in flames, standing on an impish creature with one leg, and his other leg in motion.

Creation

In his first hand, Shiva holds a drum putting everything into motion through vibration. It's true that everything from the smallest particle to the largest galaxy, even the Universe itself, is in constant motion. As a musician, I love the idea of DJ Shiva laying down the backbeat that sets the Universe into motion. This represents the birth and spring in our lives and the events and circumstances therein.

Sustaining

His next hand holds a mudra or a gesture called the abhaya mudra. This Mudra is the power of sustaining. It's like Shiva is saying, "I've built this, now I'm supporting and nourishing it." For me this represents summer time when everything is in full bloom and thriving. It's also a reminder to be present, especially to our tendency to get attached to things when they are going well, or looking over our shoulder for the other shoe to drop. If possible be right in the moment as things are. The subtle message here is that things are in flux and don't get either attached or resist what's inevitably in flux.

Death and Disillusion

In his third hand, Shiva is holding a flame suggesting not to get too attached because just as soon as he will give birth to and sustain something, he'll also burn it down. This flame reminds you that not only does everything has a life cycle, but that even as things are changing and dying they do so as part of a perfect cycle. Shiva has no remorse about any of this, he simply stares straight ahead with a little grin as if to say, "This is what death looks like," meanwhile the beautiful fall colors are exploding in their passing.

Concealment

So, when you're at your lowest point, your house has just been razed to the ground and you're really hoping Shiva will give you a helping hand, he does just the opposite. His fourth arm is concealing his heart. At the moment when we are humbled and look to a higher power at our low points he covers his arm to say, "You don't learn heart of God for free." Sometimes this feels like just when you couldn't get any lower, you in fact do.

This lowest point is what Shiva is standing on, a little demon thing called the apasmara and represents the unrealized, naive or innocent part of ourselves. Shiva is standing on this representation of a part of ourselves, not in any way to be mean or spiteful, but rather as a way of literally taking a stand for our higher selves.


Revelation

Revelation Scott Moore Yoga

And once the old self has fully been put asunder, with the only limb left, Shiva last leg is swinging upward to invite you back into the a new and elevated cycle of new birth, sustainment, death and dissolution, concealment and revelation. Here is where everything is revealed and we continue to ride the circle in a spiral of evolution and growth. After such revolutions, there is no going back. And after several times around one might begin to start to expect the different cycles as they appear.

With the full picture in mind, whenever we encounter death, change, or dissolution we can resist it less and perhaps see if for what it is, one of the beautiful steps on our way to our full understanding being.

Mary Oliver writes about learning to accept death and loss in her poem, Maker of All Things, Even Healings. I love the title of the poem because it suggests that the healing, the bringing back to life for a fuller measure of life as in the Dancing Shiva, comes only after accepting death which she does so humbly.

All night

under the pines

the fox

moves through the darkness

with a mouthful of teeth

and a reputation for death

which it deserves.

In the spicy

villages of the mice

he is famous,

his nose

in the grass

is like an earthquake,

his feet

on the path

is a message so absolute

that the mouse, hearing it,

makes himself

as small as he can

as he sits silent

or, trembling, goes on

hunting among the grasses

for the ripe seeds.



Maker of All Things,

including appetite,

including stealth,

including the fear that makes

all of us, sometime or other,

flee for the sake

of our small and precious lives,

let me abide in your shadow--

let me hold on

to the edge of your robe

as you determine

what you must let be lost

and what will be saved.




As we celebrate the panoply of fall colors, may we, too, remember the beauty of leaves falling, the beauty and magnificence of this amazing dance in which we are all twirling, living and dying.

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I Know The Truth

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There was a derelict shed behind the forgotten house where my grandfather kept his old tractor which used to plow an acre-size garden, his pride and joy and his reason for living, the only thing left of his family’s inheritance.

At 5 years old, I remember stepping into the old shed, my eyes adjusting to the dark as I breathed shallowly the imposing scent of gasoline and dirt. It smelled of rotting time, deceased decades, the bones of an age I never knew.

I remember seeing the rotting timbers which held the place together, the collection of rusted Utah license plates hanging on the wall, and a blunt chopping stump with an axe embedded permanently within, an agricultural Excalibur.

Against one wall was a sloping pile of silky-black coal, chunks the size of misshapen grapefruits, fossils revealing a forgotten time when people heated house and hearth by shoveling these bulky blocks into furnaces. As my great-grandparents died, so did their need for coal and this pile of forgotten fuel stood as a mute reminder of the invariability death.

I know the truth

Mostly, I remember sitting on top of that old tractor in its wide seat, looking over to see the enormous rear tires dwarfing the small front ones. I remember trying to reach the clutch and gas and pedals with my short, child's legs and handling the stick. The top of the gear shifter was decorated with a black skull.

Now, the message of it tells me that we are all dust. “Go ahead,” it seemed to whisper. “Plant, sow, till. But one day you too will be planted in this earth and that is the simple, hard truth, a truth as rigid as the axe embedded into the stump, and as true as there is soil to plant in."

Decades later, many of my own years buried, the shed has now probably been razed. Today, I'm increasingly aware of my own mortality as I see family members and loved ones, one by one, young and old, whose harvest times have arrived and are themselves planted in the earth.

And so like everyone else, I try to make meaning of the relatively small time I enjoy walking on top of this earth instead of being buried beneath it. The poet Maria Tsvetaeva speaks to this perfectly when she says in her poem, I Know The Truth:


I know the truth – give up all other truths!

Marina Tsvetaeva.jpg

No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.

Look – it is evening, look, it is nearly night:

what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?

The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,

the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.

And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we

who never let each other sleep above it.



When I read the first line “I know the truth – give up all other truths!” my mind snaps to attention. What monumental truth has she discovered and needs to tell me? To me, she’s asking the human race to stop struggling and look at the beauty of the world, the night, and of course the oncoming dusk of our own lives. She says, take a look at the world around us and see how we are all part of the big picture.

Written in a time in Soviet history when poets were persecuted and killed, Maria Tsvetaeva makes a beautiful inclusion of the generals, the very people who sought to eliminate poets, “what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?” and by so doing, speaks to a bigger truth, even beyond the threat of her own death, that we are all human, subject to the same fate, “And soon all of us will sleep under the earth . . . .”

By pointing to the fact that, “all of us will sleep under the earth, we/ who never let each other sleep above it”, she uses her voice as a poet, an oracle, to illuminate the futility of struggling with each other when we will all eventually experience the same fate.

This is not a message of doom and gloom. It’s a wake-up call to practice being in the here and now and to look beyond dogma and idealism and search for the divine humanity everyone including “lovers, poets, generals.” I’m sure all of us fit into one if not all three of those categories

Scott Moore Yoga

What does it mean to be human and how do we truly appreciate another day in the sun?


Both poetry and poses are a chance to practice being human. Through them, we practice the vicissitudes of living, the ups and downs, the tension release, the struggles and joys. Perhaps mostly we practice cultivating paying attention before the sun has set and it is too late.

And by practicing, my hope is that we find something within us, something deep down that we can call real, something that we find to be fundamentally beautiful and good. Finding this within, even to a small degree, may we look around and find the same quality in everything else, particularly those people around us, family, loved ones, strangers.

May we, through practicing yoga and therefore better understanding ourselves, see the beauty, majesty and miracle of everything.

Perhaps this is what it means to truly see.






Why I Wake Early

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Sun Salutations

I awake today and sit enjoying the silence of a beautiful morning. Even as I sit, I'm watching the bright morning sun dance its procession around my front room. It is playing with the crystal hung in my eastern window and splattering rainbow prisms across each wall.

Even as I look, the color changes and fades, showing me that the earth is revolving around this sun. Things are changing. As I look out the window the sun is celebrating these early autumn trees with its light, making the yellow leaves explode with color against a cloudless and pale-blue sky. I see a small bird sitting in a shadow who decides to leap up higher and rest in the bright sun's warmth. And then it begins to sing.

Aren't we all like this bird, eager for the creature comforts of warmth on our skin, eager to leave the shadows for the sun and the opportunity to feel life pulsing through our veins, eager to feel how we may reflect that same brightness and joy through our song?

And perhaps this is why in yoga we practice celebrating the sun with Surya Namaskar, or sun salutations. Surya means "sun" and Namaskar means "a deep honoring." You might notice the same root word Namas as the base of the word Namaste, another Sanskrit word meaning to honor the True Nature or heart of hearts, the most sacred element and potential of another. Surya Namaskar is like offering a Namaste to our source, the sun, as it brings life to us and everything on this planet and we're dependent on it for all aspects of our well-being. Sun salutations are also a physical practice, a ritual, for acknowledging and honoring anything else you feel is your source (God, Creation, the Universe, Buddha nature, or whatever). But just as important, this practice reveals that we are part of that source and reflect a bit of that same light within ourselves. By acknowledging this similarity between ourselves and our source we empower ourselves with the memory of our True Nature. We are not dark creatures in a dark world, and where there is shadow, we can choose to leave it for the sun or shine light into it. We are beings of light, filled with life and love. And we are here to celebrate that, to learn from it, and to shine our light everywhere.

Mary Oliver.jpg

Uinta Mountain Yoga Retreat October 5–7, 2018

Mary Oliver says in her poem Why I Wake Early:

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light -
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Please join me this week as we practice Surya Namaskar and other poses to remind ourselves of this bigger picture. We show gratitude, rekindle our fire, and celebrate our own light.

Scott

Yoga Hawaii.jpeg