You know Bob, “the Gita Guy,” right? He’s the one brewing up lots of interesting conversation in the living room for his current series of posts here at Elephant: Gita Talk.
Well, when he emailed me to let me know that he and his cherished wife, Jane, were taking a road trip to Chicago and were planning to take my class at Yogaview in celebration of Jane’s birthday (at her request), I was thrilled! You see, I had had the honor of meeting them at Linda-Sama‘s recent workshop, where I took the opportunity to invite them to come to my class, too.
And I’m so glad I did!
Right away I started to think about how I might make the class special to celebrate ourselves, yogically, in honor of Jane’s birthday.
I found a reading that I thought might resonate with Bob in his love affair with the Gita.
For example, in the Bhagavad Gita (as translated by Eknath Easwaran) it says:
Those who possess this wisdom have equal regard for all. They see the same Self in a spiritual aspirant and an outcast, in an elephant, a cow and a dog. Such people have mastered life.
Here is an excerpt from Walt Whitman (part of what I read in class, and it can be found in the book: Laws for Creations, selected and introduced by Michael Cunningham):
This is the meal pleasantly set….this is the meat and drink for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous….I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The keptwoman and sponger and thief are hereby invited….the heavy-lipped slave is invited….the veneralee is invited,
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.
The added ritual came at the end of class. While everybody was resting in savasana (a relaxing pose in yoga), I placed a flower at the feet of every person, and I put the leftover blooms at the foot of the Buddha sculpture. I also burned a little incense.
I rang a chime and waited for the sound to become subtle, and I began to read. Here is another excerpt by Walt Whitman:
I play not a march for victors only….I play great marches for conquered and slain persons.
Have you heard that it is good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall…battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.
I sound triumphal drums for the dead….I fling through my embouchures the loudest and gayest music for them,
Vivas to those who have failed, and to those whose war-vessles sank in the sea, and those themselves who sank in the sea,
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes, and the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known.
When I was finished reading (there was more beyond what I’ve shared in the excerpts) people slowly came out of the resting pose to discover a flower where their feet were. And I said something about the beauty of the flower symbolizing the beauty of the totality of experience, including both failures and successes, ups and downs as they are all a part of the wonder of our experience, and I wished to honor that about everybody. (at least that’s what I hope I said—it was along those lines)
In honor of a birthday—Jane’s—I did a special honoring of the whole class. It was interesting because I had a really mixed group of students that day: there were some who regularly attend, there were a handful of people whom I hadn’t seen in ages, and there were people who were totally new to my class. I enjoyed honoring these people.
After class I went to a leisurely dinner at Mana with Jane and Bob.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering anything like, “Who the heck are these people writing on the Internet?” I encourage you to take any opportunities to find out. And if they are anything like Bob, you are in for a treat! It was such a delight to talk and dine with he and Jane after class.
Not only did Bob and Jane seem to respect, enjoy and appreciate one another, they also each left space for the other to talk. And the relationship seems vibrant (read into that).
On the subject of yoga, Bob’s sensibilities are as subtle, complex and personal as anyone who is authentically dedicated to the subject. I respect that.
I also appreciate Bob’s effort toward including newer readers of the Gita in Gita Talk, and from hearing him talk I got the impression that he would take much pleasure in reading the thoughts of more people in his Gita Talk. New readers are welcome to jump in anywhere, and to start commenting. He isn’t just interested in what experts or scholars have to say, he’d like to hear your thoughts, too.
…And I almost want to say: especially if you are new to this text or new to trying to talk about such things, join in and write a comment!
So, talk to Bob at the “Gita Talk” posts here on Elephant: he is a neat guy!