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Love Yourself. Then Forget It. Then Love The World.

A note from Carl:

Greetings from a beautiful morning in San Francisco. Erin and I arrived here yesterday, and begin our grief ritual facilitation training with Francis Weller this afternoon.

We keep joking that this is our “grief date” as it is only the second weekend we have been away from our almost 9-year-old son. Really, these are the kind of dates we most love: steeping in this good, real, challenging and necessary work, and being with Francis, one of our wise and beloved mentors. We are deeply grateful for all of the support we have received from our community to help make this possible.
Yesterday we spent most of the day walking together through Golden Gate Park and the amazing botanical gardens at its center.
At one point, sitting in a grove of redwoods, we were having a conversation, and Erin said: “It’s like that line from Mary…” And, as we often have a shared brain, I was right there with her with one of my all time favorite Mary Oliver lines:

“And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.”

To me, that line is the essence of how to live a good life.

Initially, most of us need a lot of work learning to love ourselves. Much of the work that we do helps to grow more friendliness and care; with our body, with our movement, with our touch, with our inner-life and with our own mind.  It is so necessary since many of us learned default patterns of self-deletion, self-criticism, and self-aggression.

And yet it also can be easy to get caught in the endless self-care trap.  It is a shadow that I see in the yoga/mindfulness/bodywork worlds. We can take the “put your own air mask on first before helping others” metaphor too far. This world also needs our care. This suffering world also needs our love.

Erin has shared before this Seth Godin passage that speaks to this point:

Don’t expect much from a drowning man. He’s not going to offer you a candy bar or ask how your day was.

He’s too busy not drowning.

Generosity takes effort.

It requires the space to take your mind off your own problems long enough to see someone else’s.

It requires the confidence to share when a big part of you wants to hoard.

And it requires the emotional labor of empathy.

Generosity begins by trusting ourselves enough to know that we’re not actually drowning.”

Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world. 

I could just repeat that line to myself over and over again. In fact, I could just read the whole poem, To Begin With, The Sweet Grass over and over…

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
by Mary Oliver
1.
Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say–behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings of this gritty earth gift.

2.
Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.

3.
The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another.

4.
Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

5.
We do one thing or another; we stay the same or we change.
Congratulations if you have changed.

6.
Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?

And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—
what would do for you?

7.
What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements, though with difficulty

I mean the ones that are thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.

Wishing you well,
Carl

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Erin

By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.
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