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Did Mother Teresa Teach Headstand?

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

While I'm guessing the beloved Nobel Peace Prize recipient did not teach headstand, I do consider her a master of yoga. Skeptical? Allow me to illustrate.

The story goes like this. Dan Rather, the CBS anchor, once asked Mother Teresa what she said when she prayed. She answered, "I don't say anything, I listen." So Rather turned the question and asked, "Well then, what does God say?" She smiled with confidence and replied, "He doesn't talk, he listens." For an instant, Rather didn't know what to say. "And if you don't understand that," she added, "I can't explain it to you."

Hey, Dan, I can! It's a yoga thing.

My current meditation practice is a glorious example. (See below.) It is based on one of yoga's most ancient and auspicious texts, The Yoga Vasistha, which guides us into seeing the mind not as a landmine of cluttered thoughts, but as a wide open cosmic playground where we find ourselves awake to the infinite, asleep to the finite. I see this infinity in Mother Teresa's provocative answer. When we allow ourselves to become quieter, we may "hear" from our truest Self. The ego likes to jump in and jumble things up, so the practice of listening to ourselves can be far more challenging than standing on our heads. But it is so very worth the time and discipline.

I am reminded of another exemplary example of the power of listening from a notable "also ran" on the Nobel Peace Prize list, Mahatma Gandhi.

Speak only if it improves upon the silence.

Rumi concurs, of course:

Let silence speak to you about the secrets of the universe.

All is known in the sacredness of silence.

Let silence take you to the core of life.

One more suggestion on silence, this time quoting myself by way of a paraphrase:

Don't chew more than you bite off.

Time for me to practice what I just typed and offer you a practice of what I preach!

Here is a brief sample of the meditation I mentioned. It does indeed take me to the core of life. It is disarmingly simple. It is breathtakingly beneficial. It listens to my heart of hearts.

  • Take a comfortable, mindful seat.

  • Become aware of your body breathing.

  • Once your breath becomes smooth and effortless, begin to listen as you inhale and silently repeat the words, "I Am."

  • On the exhale, no words, just notice what appears in the wake of the inhale, not for words or modifiers such as "I Am Barbra." As you exhale, just notice what appears in that space. Let that space be. Verbal answers will likely pop up, but just continue.

  • Inhale I Am.

  • Exhale, just...listen.

I get that meditation can be a challenge. I often hear people say they can't meditate because they can't make their mind stop spinning, that they can't "do it right." Here's a relief--it's not about shutting the mind up. It's more like being aware your mind is thinking, and surfing the thoughts rather than trying in vain to stop them. For a meditation practice to "work" for you, choose one that you are drawn to, one you want to do. That's how to find the discipline.

I don't want to leave you out on a limb about the What and Why without a How, so, in closing, I call in another themed quote from the TV character Frasier, the radio talk show psychiatrist, whose tagline was: "I'm listening."

Here's the How:

If you enjoy my musings here, practicing with me, and would love to explore creative and sustainable ways to "surf" your mind rather than let it keep spinning and spinning, join me for one or BOTH of the events below!

Second Sundays Satsang

Online, 8:00-9:30am Pacific, every second Sunday

Sangha is a gathering of "good company." Think of it as building upon those spontaneous chats you have with friends before and after yoga class. I'm here to offer space for you and build that community. I'll guide movement, meditation, creative practices, inquiries, and "dharma talks"once a month, and invite you to let me know what things "yoga" you're curious about!

$25 per session, or $65 for a bundle of three.

Registration is required via Zoom, in advance.

Payment options are below. Let me know if you need to make other arrangements.

The Refuge of Yoga: Grounding Practices for Restless Times

A Yoga Mindset and Yoga Nidra Workshop with Barbra Brady

Saturday, April 1, 1:00-4:00pm

Sonoma Yoga, Sonoma

$65, register and pay through Sonoma Yoga.

An in-person workshop of creative inquiry, simple movement, yoga nidra, and the support of sangha, or "good company." Rekindle your curiosity, reclaim your luminous Self, and step into a peaceful, inward flow of awareness to grant space for refuge.

I continue to offer two weekly in-person classes a week at blue door yoga & wellness, and occasional Sunday afternoons at Sonoma Yoga.

Take care, and I'd love to hear from you. In the meantime, I'm curious,

Any comments on how to connect the dots from Mother Teresa's wisdom to yoga? Let's discuss in the comments below!

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