The Best Things in Life are Shri

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We are taking a writing class*, and every week the course is framed by a Hindu myth or concept. This week was inspired by Shri which our teacher, Susanna Harwood Rubin, defined as a kind of amalgam of auspiciousness, sweetness, abundance, and specificity. People and situations and things can all be Shri. A flower poking up through a crack in the sidewalk is the very expression of Shri. Undeterred by concrete impediments, it grows—a sign of the regenerative nature of the universe. We love that every time someone invokes Shri, its very essence continues growing and expanding, just as it’s meant to!

When you write, Shri acts like an aperture, dilating and refining your language so that it illuminates the shadows and contours of your thoughts. To illustrate this idea, Susanna read Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground, a beautiful poem by Pablo Neruda. In Neruda’s hands, the chestnut’s tale is one of birth and rebirth, told through metaphors of light, music, texture, trees and sea life. It is a descriptive marvel whose recursive rhythms sway between the “majesty of foliage” and the “dark damp plan of new roots.” All this from a little chestnut!

When you practice yoga, Shri acts in much the same way. It is in seemingly ordinary details such as the way you extend your fingers in Trikonasana, and how you position your mat in the classroom. Do you plop the mat down, pell mell, or do you consider its placement and act deliberately, like the chestnut, in a “leap to the earth, burnished and ready”? Once on your mat, Shri impels you into deeper refinements of poses, and—possibly!—greater articulations of movement and art. Asana thus becomes more than asana, more than just a little chestnut at your feet. It becomes an instrument of revelation.

* Writing Your Practice is a fantastic way to dust off and dig into the overlapping spheres of yoga and writing. Offered online in a 10-session series in which you call in (via phone or Skype,) the class builds thematically week-to-week, each session led by Susanna’s deft intertwining of yogic ideas with practical tools for nurturing your storytelling and descriptive skills, whether you’re a budding or seasoned writer. Susanna’s lectures, the live feedback, the assignments and in-class exercises have been a boon not only to my writing, but have transformed my other creative practices as well.