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I was in a book store this morning.
My yoga practice today: self-restraint.
Does that say it all?

I love books. I love book stores. I love used book stores best, but they are becoming harder and harder to find. Sadly, I think they may be on the endangered species list.

My husband now reads all of his books on his Kindle. He is actually (gasp!) getting rid of his complete set of Terry Pratchet books, because he can now get them all digitally.

I have the the Kindle app on my ipod, and yes, I too sometimes read digital books.  It’s nice, it’s handy.  You don’t have to carry a heavy bag onto the airplane if you are not sure what you will want to read during the trip.  You can easily read a book in the doctor’s office waiting room when you have to wait 2 hours to be seen.  You can take a whole library wherever you go, and never feel the added weight.

Save a tree, read a digital book.

Still, there is nothing like books made from paper and ink.

Here’s what I love best about books:  The smell.  Have you ever noticed that books can have individual smells, different from one another?  This is especially true of used books – I think they carry the essence of previous owners. Which is another thing I love:  the feel, the essence of a book.   Sometimes, I can buy a book based purely on how it feels, without having any idea of the real content.  I know I am not alone in this; my sister says she does the same thing.

Here’s another thing I love about books:  Sharing them. Sometimes, you want to take that book you just finished, hand it to a friend and say: here, read this, its fabulous!   Books take their own journeys this way, passing from hand to hand, finding just the people who need them.  That just doesn’t happen with a digital book.

So what does all this have to do with yoga?

I was in a book store this morning.  I was looking for a road atlas. That’s all, just a book of maps for a possible journey across the country.  (Yes dear, I know I can get all the maps digitally, and they are useful, but an atlas… the pages should crinkle when I turn them;  my fingers want to  feel the texture of potential places as they trace out random routes… )

Um, what was that about yoga?  Oh, right.  Practicing Restraint.

Most yoga is based on an Eight-Limbed Path which is laid out in an ancient text called the Yoga Sutra of  Pantanjali.  The first two limbs are the Yamas and the Niyamas, which are considered ethical guidelines fundamental to yoga.  The yamas are often called the ethical or moral restraints.  These include ahimsa (non-violence), truthfulness, non-stealing, sense control (responsibility), and aparigraha, which is the restraint against greediness.

Ah, right.  Aparigraha.  Thou shalt not hoard books.

The interesting thing about committing to a daily practice of yoga is that each day, I consciously and actively look for ways to practice. In the looking, yoga is more present.  I am discovering that not only does my yoga consist of my asana practice, but it also expresses through my thoughts, my actions, my awareness.

A simple trip to a book store can become a practice of yoga, an opportunity to contemplate attachment and greediness, restraint and compassion.   Exploration of the sutras and the philosophy of yoga can be both playful and profound.

I did get the atlas.   And  I did practice restraint.   I didn’t buy the entire stack of books that somehow wound up in my arms as I browsed through the store.   I did allow a small indulgence: besides the atlas, I left with a slim volume of poetry: House of Light, poems by Mary Oliver.   Hm, yes, a balance between aparigraha and greediness.

In the spirit of aparigraha, I share with you one of  Mary Oliver’s beautiful pieces:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is is you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

~~  Mary Oliver

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