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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

When Yoga Gets Really Real

by Vanessa Reid, guest contributor

Vanessa Reid Off the Mat

When I moved to Jerusalem two years ago, I thought for sure that I would continue my yoga practice, especially after working at ascent magazine and having yoga present in my life in so many ways for so many years. And I thought that I would even find others in this holy city to practice with. A sangha, a space, a teacher. Even other forms of spiritual practice.

But that has not been the case. At least not exactly. My journey has been quite different. But then why would I think that things would turn out the way I thought?

And so while I have discovered here many layers and qualities of spirituality that have moved my soul, shaken my assumptions, inspired further discovery, and shifted my consciousness, I have had to completely redefine my yoga. It has led me over and over to the question, “So then what is my yoga practice?”

My practice has been to reframe and re-contract my relationship with my own body, with my heart, with the identities I had accumulated up until now, and certainly with what I had understood yoga was for me.

More specifically, my yoga practice here, in Jerusalem, has been the rigorous commitment to understanding my own heart. And the pathway to this has been through being in a practice of relationship with my partner, Yitzhak, which is the reason I traveled to the Middle East, to this city, in the first place.

Relocating to this part of the world — and reconfiguring my identity into being one who is in a deep partnership — has turned my insides out and my outsides in. It has peeled my skin off, shown me more of who I am. It has dared me to look at what I dared not look at or meet within myself, which, even through my many reflections in my "hidden language hatha" practice, I had cleverly managed to not encounter.

If yoga in all its sacred expressions is to practice union, to become more whole, to let go of what I no longer need to keep evolving, serving, living, then my practice has been one of breaking my heart open. Of letting in light to places that I had kept dark. The practice of accepting and loving all those places in me and in others, including Yitzhak’s. The yoga has been “off the mat,” as we say in North America. It has been in all the letting go and surrendering.

And now, two years later, I find myself on my mat. Quietly, in my home, in a little corner that I had identified upon my arrival here as “the yoga corner,” I am finding my way back to a different yogic relationship with my body and life, and with the divine. I find myself much softer, less flexible, yet much more flexible.

I have relocated myself. I have new ground and a new centre from which I practice. I am deeply grateful for the years of practice and reflection and the teachings that are deep in my cellular structure and which, thank goodness, find their way into my life, my whole life, and particularly in hard moments.

And, significantly, I find myself sharing my practice with others spontaneously, generously, humbly — and together we open our hearts wide open, ever so gently, into the yoga of friendship, of listening, of vulnerability, and of being present to life and its mysteries with our whole selves.

I have matured. So has my practice. It is a life practice.

Hello mat.


Vanessa ReidVanessa Reid is a Canadian writer currently living in Jerusalem, Israel. She was the executive publisher of ascent magazine and executive director of Santropol Roulant, a non-profit founded by young people that uses innovative approaches to food, relationships, and sustainability as a catalyst for social change. You can read more of her work on her blog, Jerusalem Journals.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Health is not a commodity. Risk factors are not disease. Aging is not an illness. To fix a problem is easy, to sit with another suffering is hard. Doing all we can is not the same as doing what we should. Quality is more than metrics. Patients cannot see outside their pain, we cannot see in, relationship is the only bridge between. Time is precious; we spend it on what we value. The most common condition we treat is unhappiness. And the greatest obstacle to treating a patient’s unhappiness is our own. Nothing is more patient-centered than the process of change. Doctors expect too much from data and not enough from conversation. Community is a locus of healing, not the hospital or the clinic. The foundation of medicine is friendship, conversation and hope.
- David Loxtercamp, author of A Measure of Days: The Journal of a Country Doctor, as read in his interview with NPR’s Liane Hansen.
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The Act of Parenting Is Folding the Towels in a Sweet Way

by Krista Tippett, host

Sylvia Boorstein makes a point during her interview with Krista Tippett.

I picked up Sylvia Boorstein's lovely book That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist years ago and loved it. Then, three years ago, I found myself on a panel discussion with her and loved her in person.

I was struck in that discussion by one story she told, about a man who participated in one of her meditation and Metta or “lovingkindness” retreats; she conducts these for Buddhist practitioners but also for rabbis and clergy and lay people of many traditions. As this man prepared to pack up and go home, he described an unsettling sense of vulnerability, of openness to life which also meant that his defenses were down. He felt blessedly sheltered in the context of that retreat but far too exposed to take his newfound vulnerability out into the world.

This has its corollary in becoming a parent, I think. One’s sense of sovereignty and safety goes into freefall — and stays there. But no one tells you this in advance! As the French theologian Louis Evely beautifully put it:

"(W)hen one becomes a father, or a mother, one suddenly sees oneself as vulnerable, in the most sensitive part of one’s being; one is completely powerless to defend oneself, one is no longer free, one is tied up. To become a father is to experience an infinite dependency on an infinitely small, frail being, dependent on us and therefore omnipotent over our heart."

So how to live, how to love, how to know what we can do (and what we can’t) to raise children who will participate in the world’s beauty and its pain and be safe inside their skin. This too is a conundrum, a daunting challenge that we rarely name together. But it is always there if we are raising children not merely to be successful (and there’s lots of advice about that), but to be good and grounded and kind.

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As you might hear in the audio above, I went into this conversation with Sylvia Boorstein hoping for some practical wisdom about imparting such qualities of character. In the course of our time together, some of it in exchange with an audience of others with children in their lives, we circled back to the simplest and most daunting reality of all: our children are likely, in the end, to act and live as we act and live. Nurturing their inner lives means nurturing our inner lives, for their sake.

I couldn’t have found a better conversation partner on this. Sylvia Boorstein has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and her spiritual practice is blessedly reality-based. Buddhism, of course, is at its core about embracing reality head on, about minimizing suffering in life by first acknowledging that suffering is a fact of life and resolving not to make it worse.

So, as she describes, this spiritual practice has helped her grasp that her lifelong tendency to worry is simply a quality she possesses, no more remarkable than the fact that she is short and has brown hair. Others of us may have a tendency towards anger, or to reach for sensory comfort when life throws its curve balls. The trick for achieving balance and joy in our own lives — a trick made both harder and more important by the presence of children who exhaust as well as delight us — is first to know this about ourselves.

Spiritual parenting, as Sylvia Boorstein describes it, is not about adding work or effort to our overly busy lives. It is about self-knowledge and “wise effort” that helps us live gracefully moment by moment. It is manifest as much in how we fold the laundry as in how we discipline or praise our children. She offers this, for example, as a simple piece of effort that can reorient our attitudes and responses in all kinds of situations. Rather than asking, “Am I pleased?” in any given situation, we can ask instead, “In this moment, am I able to care?”

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