Pre-dawn yoga. As we flowed from pose to pose, the teacher’s words emerged from the rhythm of her own movement: “Since we were in the womb…the universe has never stopped… supporting us. That’s why…we are still…alive.”
I knew in my bones it was true. Looking at the moon, wandering the woods, touching the earth, I find that truth again. When I disappoint myself, I know the trees and the sky do not judge. Good or bad, I am held in the web of life and known by an awareness that goes beyond my own.
The other truth I know is that “surrender rules the gods.” Not in the literal sense of compelling the deities, but in the sense of finding power within through ceding outward control. I think of Shiva lying down on the battlefield where his lover Kali raged, trusting that when she came to attack, she would recognize him and drop her weapons. I think of Odin, pierced by his own spear, hanging on the World Tree to gain the runes.
I picked up the letter with a smile. Inside, I knew, would be a note of support from a yoga school friend. We’d written each other small appreciations during our training, planning to send them a few weeks after we got home. By then we might need something to encourage us as we returned to “normal life”. Hopefully, she’d said something nice.
I opened the envelope, unfolded the paper. One sentence leapt out: “I see how hard you push yourself.”
We’ve all had that feeling. At various times in my own life it’s led me to drop out of school, become a Pagan, or hit the ashram. Recently, I ran into it again when my coven read the traditional tale of “The Twelve Wild Swans” (as retold by Starhawk). I was struck by how the story of its heroine, Rose, echoed the Buddha’s story—and mine.