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When I was a boy, I taught myself gymnastics. I got a book from the
library and practiced in the garden. Bruises, the occasional sprain
all followed. Tumbles too. I kept going. In my early 20s, I had a
colleague — a magnificent Canadian — who taught me backflips and
somersaults. I gloried in the small flights of such movements.
As years went by, I tumbled less and sat more. Hunched back.
And — no surprise — back pain came eventually, too. Too much
driving, too much sitting, not enough stretching. Where somersaults
once beckoned, a yoga practice called. I resisted for a long time. I
felt awkward that I was now a different weight. I accused myself. I
used the accusations as excuses. I compared the ease of backbends from
before with the creaks of today. I was no friend to myself.
Anyway. Back pain continued.
Nothing prepared me for the home that a yoga practice gave. I could
feel my back, and some healing aches. I could feel muscles, and
memories long stored in the body, awaken. In some poses, I’d fight
back tears. During lockdown, I’ve found myself weeping while in corpse
pose more than once.
Our bodies tell the truth, even when our minds are in denial. We
are called to embodied practice: of stretching sore
muscles, of practicing justice, of equanimity for solidarity. This is
something all of our offerings focus on this week.
The beloved teacher of Buddhist practices, Sharon
Salzberg, takes us into her story of learning meditation in her On
Being conversation. She thought meditation was about becoming
good at it, rather than learning to let go, learning to be in
her own body, with all its memories and sadnesses, with all its
potential. To pay attention to your own self through a meditation
practice is, she says, a way in which we can connect to others around
us: the person at the check-out line, the person who hurt us, our own
selves. During a lockdown year, Sharon Salzberg helps us open up, not
to escape, but to equanimity.
In Poetry Unbound, Chris
Abani’s poem “The New Religion” reads like a prayer to return to the
exuberance of the body. Even the God in his poem wants to
experience this physicality. Abani looks at how, as an adult, he has
snubbed his own body, and called it virtue. No, he concludes, not
virtue, but cowardice. And
Lucille Clifton’s twin poems offer two stories of the body. In
one, she glories in the shape of her body, round as a moon, rounder,
and invites a gaze of love. And her companion poem celebrates how — in
her own body — she made a survival where others did not expect
survival. She, “nonwhite and woman,” invites us to come celebrate with
her "that everyday something has tried to kill [her] and has
Spirituality is sometimes misunderstood as disembodied, but nothing
is more bodied. Spirit comes from the word breath. In and
out. To tend to the spirit is to tend to the breath. Sharon Salzberg,
Chris Abani and Lucille Clifton all mark the connection between the
body and the spirit; between thoughts and the body; between the body
and human flourishing; between personhood and the politics of
survival. Heart openers all, they call us to listen, to practice, to
change, to act justly, to live well, for ourselves and others.
Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry
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Week at The On Being Project
Our Latest Episode
On Being with Krista
for the Heart and Mind”
Caring for the world while learning
kindness toward yourself. Holding to what is whole and true and
undamaged, even in the face of loss.
A poem about the body, your own body
specifically: having a body; feeling distanced from a body; being a
Two poems that celebrate strength and
the Questions: Live!
Living the Questions: Live, with Krista Tippett & Lucas
Monday, Oct. 26 at 5 p.m.
The great challenges of our time hold vast open questions, all of
which will still be with us the day after this election. We can turn
towards them, together, and see what possibility they might open for
shared life — even through disagreement, tumult, and uncertainty. Join
us for an hour of reflection with Krista Tippett and Lucas Johnson,
our executive director of Civil Conversations and Social Healing. More
Listen | Lanecia
Rouse Tinsley on Makers & Mystics podcast
Rouse Tinsley is an abstract expressionist artist based in Houston. In
this episode she speaks with host Stephen Roach about the creative
process, impermanence and how art can be healing.
Read | Bent
In this essay for Image, Molly
McCully Brown —whose poem "Transubstantiation" we
featured on Poetry Unbound — writes of the body,
disability, spirituality, and a changed relationship to Catholicism.
Excerpted from her essay collection, Places
I’ve Taken My Body.
Read | Xandria
Xandria Phillips won a Lambda
Literary Award in 2020 for their book HULL, an extraordinary
poetic consideration of the emotional impacts of colonialism and
racism on the Black queer body.
Krista Tippett at Rural Assembly
Tuesday, Oct. 27, 3-3:45 p.m.
Free livestream (must register)
Krista will speak about the challenges and promise of this
extraordinary moment we inhabit at this event geared toward rural
allies, neighbors, and admirers. More
Pádraig Ó Tuama Poetry Reading
Nov.1, 2-3.15 p.m. ET
Ticketed livestream (must
Pádraig will read from new work spanning nature, conflict,
religion, memory and gift. More