A Yogi

Breakdown Precedes Breakthrough

Graham earned enough to be under the taxable limit
Because he didn’t want to pay for war

He couldn’t say “No” when someone asked
“Would you help us fight back?”

He gave and gave and gave some more
Rarely drank, but smoked like it was the 50s

He said his “career” was resistance
His world was often crowds, noise, speed

A friend told him to take a day off
“But the poor and the Muslims can’t take a day off”

And he kept on going
After years of daily effort and exertion

On local, national, and global issues
He looked at himself in the mirror and wondered

“Who the hell is that stranger?”
And crawled back into bed

And stayed there for a couple of days
No internet no news no phone

Just silence
No going from one meeting to the next

Only stillness
No mind racing about the next downtown confrontation

Merely mind slowing down
He realized: Something inside

Was already dead
He realized: He hadn’t

Smiled in months
He realized: The next thing to do—

Contact Miguel

He Says He Wants a Revolution

He’s determined
He’s detached
He’s discriminating

No more waiting
No more beating around the bush
No more thinking he’s got a thousand years in this world:

“Now is the time
To boycott self-absorption!

Now is the time
For noncooperation with Lord Ego!

Now is the time
For nonviolent resistance to our society’s speed sickness”

 

Miguel’s Daily Reminders on a 3 by 5 Index Card

If you face obloquy
You’ve got to slow down the mind

If you face applause
You’ve got to let go

If you face indifference
You’ve got to repeat the mantra

If you face heartbreak
You’ve got to see who needs help

 

Deep Listening

He makes continuous eye contact
Not looking away at people
To the left or right
Or coming toward us

Ever steady
But he’s not staring
He’s beholding
He’s present

Relaxed
Right there
Taking it all in
Doesn’t interrupt to say

“You forgot about this” or
“You really ought to try that” or
“The problem with Obama is…” or
“I know all about that”

He isn’t itching to score points
He isn’t counting the seconds
Until he can deliver
The conversational coup de grâce

He’s OK with pauses
Doesn’t rush in to fill them with chitchat
He’s got an intimate relationship
With silence

No phone in his hand so
No checking it every two minutes
No texts while conversing
No “Just let me take this”

After I’ve talked for a spell
Having read my soul
He speaks slowly to me
With encouragement or appreciation

After being with him
I feel like I’m the most important person in the world
Probably like the last ten people
Who’ve been with him

 

Karma Yoga, with a Shovel

We knew it was coming
6 to 10 inches

Dread: The roads will be terrible!
Exhilaration: No school!

That morning he left his house
Shovel in hand

He approached one older neighbor
With his usual smile

“How about I make a start
In this driveway of yours?”

Slow and steady
Calm and controlled

He noticed how heavy the snow was
And he enjoyed each exertion

20 minutes later
He was finished

He went over to another neighbor’s
Did the same thing

Smiling
Shoveling

It was within his power to do this
It needed to be done

So he did it
No big deal

Smiling
Shoveling

“Look there
Mr. Stinson’s not going to be able to make a dent in that”

Off he went
To remove the snow

One shovel-full
At a time

Over and over
Smiling

Skillful Means

“I’ve learned so much from my teacher…
The truth is if one or more guys tried to hassle me
I’d take off and run—

But if I saw someone or a group bothering or threatening a woman
I’d know what to do”
I asked, “what would you do?”

“I’d walk up to them and say, ‘Hey, you can move on now’”
“I can imagine there might not be in the mood to hear that”
“So, I’d tell them calmly that they don’t wanna make a mistake”

“That might egg them on anyway,” I opined
“Still, if they persist, I would know what to do
1-2-3

Put them on the ground in three seconds
And escort the woman to safety”
No trace of ego in his tone, simply matter-of-fact

 

His Sage Advice

You won’t find It
At the Bristol Bar and Grille or down on Washington Avenue
On Telegraph Ave or at the French Laundry
In an apartment overlooking Central Park or a long vacation at a Cannes beach

You won’t find it
In Greta’s gorgeous eyes or Max’s robust portfolio
In the third wife or the fourth Mercedes
In receiving a second doctorate or securing a huge grant

You won’t find it
While ingesting this or bingeing on that
Accumulating trinkets or amassing honors
In the throng of chanting citizens or the concert crowd of devotees

Stop wandering out there
Close your eyes
Start meditating
You’ll find it

 

Mantra Walk, Michigan and Wabash Avenues,
Easter Weekend, Chicago

Holy Saturday
Sun shining on all
Haré Rama Haré Rama

Tourists juggling cameras and kids
Capture this moment for later
Rama Rama Haré Haré

Columbia College East-West
University bookstores
Haré Krishna Haré Krishna

Lean runners in spif black tights
Training for October
Krishna Krishna Haré Haré

St. James Cathedral
Bloomingdales
Haré Rama Haré Rama

Fifteen people in front of the Hilton
Fingering their phones
Rama Rama Haré Haré

Just another skyscraper
“Live the Trump Lifestyle”
Haré Krishna Haré Krishna

Most every block, beggars
Silent, cups extended
Krishna Krishna Haré Haré

 

Decades before Marie Kondo

In the old days
That apartment—
His sketches helter skelter in the hallway
Tank tops strewn on the floor
Knick knacks and newspapers cluttering the kitchen table
Talking Heads LPs perched on top of the stereo
Empty vodka bottles next to Burroughs paperbacks

Since meditation and martial arts
His apartment—
Few possessions but each in its place
One shelf of wisdom books
Cushion and incense
A cassette player for “Hymns to the Divine Mother”
Framed photos on the wall of Sri Easwaran and his old Chinese wushu master

 

 

This page is part of my book, Dear Love of Comrades, which you can read here.

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