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This is for the ones who believe they shine too bright
For the ones who think they're not enough
It's for the ones who lose their hearts again and again
And for the ones who have yet to fall
And, too, for the ones who fell one glorious, lifelong time
This is for the self-contained
And for the spurting, the overflowing
This is for the ones who believe they carry the world
It's for the ones who think they have nothing to carry
And for the empty, the hollow
For the trembling, afraid the light or the dark may
     Swallow them whole
     Or in pieces
It is for the one who steps off the edge
     No thought
For the one who plunges the knife of shame to their own heart

     Day in and day out
It's just as much for the ones who think they're all that
It's for the savior
And for the destroyer

For the one who forgives everyone

     But not themselves

And for the one who only makes an excuse

     For themselves

This is my valentine for the world.
For you. For us.

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tenderest wine
that washes away
the shame
the tension
all blame
with each sweet draught

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Still cold but past the hard frost time in southern Sweden, yet before the crocuses had sprung. Tommy and I dug and turned the black earth for the planting of stones. To build a stairway leading from the ashram's kitchen door down to the gardens. It was after breakfast, always after breakfast, which was a small glass of grain tea, with perhaps a third of a cup of parched grain resting in the bottom. We dug, we smoothed, we went to the rockpile and chose one slab after another. Together we lifted them into the wheelbarrow. Moved the first one to the top of the slope. Pushed and shoved it into the dirt. Pounded with mallets. Laid the next and pounded the earth between the stones. Some were thicker than flagstones, rounded or pointed on the bottom, needing to be settled. More digging. More pounding.
We nodded, shrugged, smiled, shook our heads, because we were building without speech. In silence. And there was Tommy. Not a common name for a Dane. One day during meditation Tommy started sobbing. I made up a story then. That he had an American father who had abandoned him. I knew the meditation had released some long-held sorrow. To be experienced, not expressed, Swamiji had said when he cried, and with that, Tommy calmed. I wondered if Tommy might be like me. Queer. Always with my antennae out. And him a sensitive boy.
A few days into the stairs, the karma yoga leader came by. Lanky, dressed in ashram orange, Kim said, "Harmonious." The work of karma yoga was seldom praised. Tommy and I looked at each other. Didn't try to hide that we were pleased. "Fortsætte," Kim said. Continue. We wouldn't be assigned to cleaning the yoga room, weeding parsnips, or digging out the new basement. Rare to be allowed to take a job from start to finish.
Tommy and I. We were harmonious. Made a harmonious set of stone steps together. The whole stairway. We did it harmoniously. 
Years later I went back to Håå to take another course. I walked around to the kitchen door to see the steps. Gone. That is the way of karma yoga. The task is done for the sake of the task. Some tasks, like the basement we dug by hand one year, yield permanent results. Just as often, perhaps more often, the work teaches us to be in the present, that nothing is truly permanent. Teaches us to find harmony in that.


The word harmonious was brought to you by Corliss Kruis Mock, my double cousin. When she read my book, To Drink from the Silver Cup, she wasn't sure how she felt about the chapter that told some of the things I learned at the Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School. She changed her mind after re-reading (props to her), so I hope she doesn't mind that this is the story that wouldn't give up when the word harmonious arrived.

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