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Looking Away


The pull into the truth of things is very strong. Often the only way to resist it is to deny what we are seeing, to pretend our lives do not have to grow or change. Yet when we do this, our spirit, which doesn’t know how to pretend, keeps moving. For as the Isa Upanishad says, “The Spirit is swifter than the mind.” We are then, painfully, like a dog at the end of its leash, staked and running at the same time, pretending we don’t know any better.


Interestingly, we tend to think of ignorance as an innocent not-knowing, but the Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa points out that to ignore someone or something is a willful looking away, a grave act of denying what is already conscious. Trungpa suggests that the willful act of looking away is a crime against the essence of things that costs us dearly.


When we find our spirit on the move when we are pretending otherwise, the tension can be ripping. It leaves us all with the need to learn how to discern between an innocent not-knowing and a willful looking away. This is an inner knowing that can determine whether we will live like a dog at the end of our leash or whether we will run free through the grasses of life.

Sit quietly and center yourself.

As you breathe slowly, try on the inbreath to sense your spirit. Feel where it is living in you.

On the outbreath, try to feel your place in the world, where you go through the days.

As you breathe, keep sensing your spirit and feeling your place.

Simply notice any difference and throughout your day look there.

Your simple and honest looking will lessen the gap.

These words are an excerpt from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. I often use this book as somewhat of an oracle, opening to a random page to see what it reveals for me. I pulled this passage for a yoga class, and found them especially relevant in light of the current political climate and Black Lives Matter. Events of the last ten months have had me closely examining what it means to be an "exotic, white-passing, POC" living in one of the whitest cities in the country. I cannot begin to recount the circumstances, nor will I pretend that my words are of much consequence in the brilliant cacophony of social justice work being brought to light at this crucial point in history.


But let it be known. I am here. I am listening. I am not looking away.


Photos by Michael Stocklin.

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