The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE


{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

Sitting Spaces

Students at the Yoga Path have been invited to share images of the meditation space in their homes. Here are some of the initial entries.

“One of the most important ways you can transform your home space is to make a place to sit. Creating a peaceful sitting area can transform your whole house. This also an important way to support your meditation practice. If we sit in the same place each day, it takes us less and less time to remember to stop and return to our breath. Here, in this place, our bodies and minds can help each other relax”  Thich Nhat Hanh

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Here is an inspiration to all us busy pe

Here is an inspiration to all us busy people, who never seem to have time to practice our yoga.

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Interbeing at a Retreat

This weekend I attended a Mindfulness Retreat in the Tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.  It was put on by the Heartland Community of Mindful Living lead by the dharma teacher Joanne Friday.  It was a transformative and refreshing experience, but that is not what I want to talk about right now. What I want to talk about it this women I met there. Perhaps some of you have heard of Dr. Mary Pipher.  When I was talking to her I didn’t know who I was talking to.  Now I know.  Author of Reviving Ophelia and her most recent book The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture.  Here is a talk she gave recently about her newest book.  I believe there is significance in that I would me this women in context of this Buddhist retreat.

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When Women Were Birds

This is a remarkable story about a mother’s death and a daughter’s life, if you have the patience to listen to it.

When Women Were Birds.

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Image in Time

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Mindful Soup

Last April I was at Blue Cliff Monastery for a six-day retreat. I had been to other retreats in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition, but this was the first at an actual monastery. Blue Cliff was a former resort in up-state New York, that has been converted by brown-clad Buddhist monks and nuns (mostly Vietnamese, but not all) who practice mindful, compassionate living in the present moment. Being there with these monastics was a wonderful experience, and their presence rubs off in such a way, that you come to appreciate the joy of a simple smile or the preciousness of a shared meal.

But as the following article explains, when at Blue Cliff, you eat your meals together, in silence, and mindfully. So you also get your food, silently, buffet style. Most of the meals are excellent, beautifully laid out, completely vegetarian, and obviously healthy. Since there is no talking, however, one can never ask what the menu is. Some of the dishes are unfamiliar and to a Midwestern boy, such as myself, bordering on exotic. At one such lunch I was going through the lunch line where there was a kettle of dark, enticing looking stew that I plunged the ladle into with curious eagerness, only to raise a substrate that resembled the fertile loam that collects in my rain gutters in a wet Fall day. In normal circumstances I would have put it back, but being the middle of a crowded buffet line with silent mendicants to the front and back, it seemed only proper to put the compost-like soup into my bowl. I watched the monks and nuns filling their bowls with alacrity, so I thought “it might be good, give it a try.” This notion was short lived, though, for sitting down at a table, just like the one you see in this NYTimes story, I discovered the soggy-leaf soup, was every bit as bad as its appeared. So I sat mindfully, quietly across from my table mates; living completely in the present moment and gagged down every leaf and stem of my soup. To this day I remember this meal as one of the longest of this particular life.

read New York Time article on Mindful Eating

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The Sparrow and the Fox

By Mike McMahon

Once there was a young sparrow, newly born, who lived in the forest with her mother and father and brothers and sisters. For her, life was very beautiful.  In the mornings the air was cool, in the afternoons the sun would warm her. Her father would bring her salty, crunchy bugs to eat; her mother would bring sweet, juicy worms.  She loved to see her mother and father fly through the forest from tree to tree.  She felt a great joy knowing that one day she too would fly.  Best of all though, were the evenings when she would lay down with her brothers and sisters.  Her mother would put her body over them like a blanket, and they would fall asleep to the beating of her heart.  It was then that the sparrow felt completely happy, safe, and secure.

One evening there was a great storm in the forest.  While her brothers and sisters huddled beneath their parents, the young sparrow was curious to experience the wind and rain. She moved out from under her mother to the edge of the nest.  The rain was cold and refreshing, and the thunder and lightning were thrilling.  Suddenly, a large gust of wind caused the branch to lurch and the sparrow was thrown from her nest.  She landed with a soft thud on the thistle-tufted floor of the forest.

Her father flew to her and asked if she was alright. She was not hurt.  But the sparrow could tell from the look in her father’s eyes that the situation was not good – there would be no way she would be able to return to her beautiful nest in the tree. She knew that she was going to die there on the forest floor.  She looked up at the nest where she’d been so happy and safe just a moment earlier.  How she longed to return there!  The forest had always been so beautiful to her, but now it seemed dark and frightening.  How could her world have changed so suddenly?  In one moment she had fallen from heaven into hell.

Her father stayed with her through the night.  As day began to break the forest came slowly to life.  Her mother flew down to be with her while her father went to look for food. 

They spotted a fox across the forest floor.  It was clear that he had seen them too, for he was slowly approaching.  The mother and father began swooping about the fox in order to distract him.  But the fox scarcely noticed them, intent as he was on his prey.  At the last possible moment, the mother and father flew back to their nest.  Now the sparrow felt completely alone and abandoned by all that was good and kind.  Her terror was so great that she could not move. 

Suddenly the fox was before her.

“Don’t worry,” said the fox,  “I’ll take good care of you”.

“But . . .you’re going to eat me” said the sparrow.

“Yes,” said the fox.

“It will hurt,” said the sparrow.

“Just for a moment” said the fox, “I promise”.

Suddenly, the sparrow didn’t feel so afraid.

“What will become of me?” said the sparrow.

“Look around you”.

The sparrow looked around at the forest she had loved so well.  Before today, she had only seen the forest from above.  Now it was all around her!  How beautiful it was!  There were so many types of creatures – all working busily to live.  The trees loomed large and lovely above her – with many different types and colors of foliage.  A fresh stream flowed through a clearing in the center of the forest and on its banks were hundreds of brightly colored flowers.  Now as she was about to die, the forest seemed more achingly beautiful than ever.  She longed to remain a part of it.

“Why do I have to die”?

“If you didn’t die, the forest couldn’t be the forest.  The life of the forest is nothing more that the continual birth and death of the thousand things that make up the forest. One day I too will die”.

The fox moved directly over the sparrow.

“It’s time now . . .”

“But let me tell you a great secret”, he put his paw upon her.

“You are not a sparrow,” he opened his mouth.

“You are the forest”; his teeth pierced her breast.

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The Bell

There hangs a bell at the Yoga Path.  Suspended toward the back of the studio on a separate section of wall in front of the kitchen door. This section of wall stands apart from all other walls at the school and joins the room only at the floor and ceiling. This isolation was the unintentional result of building movable walls that would open or close the studio, partitioning it to either two rooms or allowing for one great room. The wall has come to be known, at least by some, as the Bell Tower, because on it up about six feet, resides the heavy bell that is rung at the end of each class. At least by some.

the Yoga Path bell

Not all the teachers choose to ring the bell. A while back my teacher, Margaret Hahn, consented to teach at the Path. This was a great honor for me as owner of the new yoga school. Margaret had taught me at numerous locations during my many years with her. At three studios, a couple of YMCAs, four different churches, and her home. She had founded the Omaha Yoga School and from it taught me in yoga, and trained me in the teaching of it. I had been on her faculty for a number of years during that time, studying a host of yogic concepts and authors and in the course of the this long and fruitful tutelage. But in all this time, there had never been – a bell!

Margaret was always more of a drumming  teacher. If you’ve ever been to her class, you know that she starts off with a circumambulation and the Prayer to Mount Kailash:

With unchanging mind I have faith,
I prostrate in homage and do circumambulation.
Bless us, so we have power to do limitless good to all being.
Bless us,so we are bound to act for the supreme liberation of all being.
Bless us, so we accomplish both our own and others good.

After prostrating and saying this pray, we walk mindfully with the teacher pounding the drum, slowly in time with our steps. One beat — you step into the present, bringing all of you awareness to the earth you standing on, at that moment. The next beat — you lift the back foot and shake off the dust of the past. Drum/ step …………drum/step……….drum/ step……. around the circle, around a likeness of Mount Kailash. In the years that Margaret has done this we’ve carried drums into schools, classrooms, libraries, and temples. When traveling I’ve seen her carry cumbersome instruments over meadows, through cornfields, across streams, into forests, up mountains, and even into earthen lodges. Even in situations where there was no drum, students would go off to gather contrivances like sticks or rocks to pound together as we circled.
And so when I was showing Margaret, with some pride, the layout of the Yoga Path, she naturally asked toward the end of the tour, where do you keep your drums? It was as though the mallet had struck the timpani of my head. Sheepishly I looked at my teacher and confessed, “I don’t have a drum Margaret.” “What do you use to teach class?” she asked quizzically, as though asking, what do you do for air? I tried to boldly put forth that I ring the bell. Then went back to the bell tower and invited the sound of the bell. As its rich resonance faded into silence she just steadfastly smiled at me with expression of “where did I go wrong with you?”
To my knowledge, Margaret Hahn has never rang the bell.

~to be continued~

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