“Ah, So.”

Excerpt from Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul
By Sharon Gannon, David Life

“In a 1979 lecture, Ram Dass told a great story about not getting caught up in preferences, based on a teaching from the Third Chinese Patriarch:
The Great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.

Just look at your life and think how many preferences you have. You prefer pleasure over Pain? Life over death? Friends over aloneness? Freedom over imprisonment? Love over hate? Where are your attachments? Where are your clingings? Are you stuck in polarities? That is what the Third Patriarch is asking. ‘Make the slightest distinction, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart,’ he says. Make the slightest distinction, and you’ve created hell. ‘If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.’ Are you ready to live like that? Do you realize how spacious you have to be, to live by that kind of philosophy?

That’s the fiercest kind of philosophy I know. But I like to have that kind of fierce friend to hang out with me, to keep reminding me how much I ‘hold opinions.’ This should be like this, and that should be like that, and I want everybody to be thus and so, and wouldn’t it be better if…? Instead of just being spacious with it, we’re full of opinions. Not to ‘hold opinions’ doesn’t mean we don’t have them – it means we are not attached to them. It doesn’t mean we don’t have preferences, it means we’re not attached to our preferences. I can prefer blue over green, and decide that when there’s a choice. I’ll pick the blue over the green, but if I end up with green, ah, so.

‘Ah, so’ – remember the ‘Ah, So’ story? There was a monk who lived in the monastery up on the hill. The local girl down in the village got pregnant by the fisherman. She didn’t want to cause problems for him in the village, so she said, ‘It was the monk up in the monastery.’ When the baby was born, the townspeople carried it up the hill to the monastery. They knocked on the gate, and the monk opened the door; they said to the monk, ‘This is your baby – you raise it.’ And the monk said, ‘Ah, so.’ And he took the baby, and he closed the gate. I mean, the guy’s whole life changed just like that, in that moment, and his only reason is, ‘Ah, so.’

Nine years later the girl was dying. She didn’t want to die without admitting what had happened, so she said to the people, ‘Look, I lied. It really wasn’t the monk, it was the fisherman.’

The villagers were horrified! They went up to the monastery and they knocked on the door. The monk opened the gate, and there standing next to him was this nine-year-old child. The villagers said, ‘We’ve made a terrible mistake. This isn’t your child after all. We’ll take him back down to the village to raise him, and you’re free to go back to your monastic life.’ And the monk said, ‘Ah, so.’ He was so much right here that whatever new change arose, ‘Ah, so.’

If you practice yoga [or live life] for small, selfish reasons, you will remain the same, bound by your beliefs about what you can and cannot do. Let go and offer all your effort to limitless potential. Dedicate yourself to the happiness of all beings.
Keep your attentions fixed on seamless, economic breathing, integrated with movement. Keep your mind fixed on God. If you can do this during asana practice, you will create a vinyasa of happiness and contentment that will be unshakable in the face of life’s ups and downs.

You might like forward bending and dislike backward bending, or vice versa. But when you choose to perform both with equal zest, you will attain some freedom from the tyranny of thoughts. When you can experience your likes and dislikes from an amicable distance and transcend their usual hold on you, Yoga is possible. Ah, so.”

By Sharon Gannon, David Life. Pages 178-179.


Literary Lens

Modern Literature

Popular Modernism has a place between 1900 to the 1920s.  It introduced disjointed timelines and tried to make sense of a broken world during the WWI era.  Modernist writers moved beyond the limitations of Realism into stream of conciousness.  Many works reflect spiritual loneliness, alienation, frustration and disillusionment.  These writers consist of Thomas Hardy, Rupert Brooke, Siegried Sassoon, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf.

Post Colonial Texts

Post Colonial Texts consist of the literature from de-colonization.  Typically, narratives consist of the struggle to adapt from their native culture into the new, dominant culture.  These writers consist of Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Post-Modern Literature

Experimentation is the best way to describe Post Modernism.  This form of Post WWII literature encouraged authors to write in fragmentation and multi-layered narratives.  Famous Post Modern writers are Thomas Pynchon, William Gibson and Karen Yamashita.


American Masculinities cover the U.S. East to West movement, male bonding and various male outlaw activities. Popular novels are On The Road by Jack Kerouac,  Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk and The Viginian by Owen Wister.

Slow Down: Ways to Live in the Moment

“Self-confidence tends to slow people down, which for most of us would be highly desirable.  You no longer need to prove yourself, or be anxious about everyday encounters.  The phrase “Take your time” is an important one – it is your time, and it’s up to you what you do with it.  Don’t fill silences with words:  relax, and give yourself time to ponder.”

-By Barbara Ann Kipfer

What Makes Modern Literature Modern?

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms describes the Modern Period (English and American) as the time between “1914 with the outbreak of World War I and ending in 1945 with the conclusion of World War II”.  The word “modern” in Modern Literature is often confused with words such as “contemporary” or “recent”.  Modern Literature writers are dubbed “Modernists”.  From a literary lens, it refers to the period of “works characterized by a transnational focus, stylistic unconventionality, or interest in repressed sub- or unconscious material; it includes works written in just about every established genre by writers such as W.H. Auden, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Robert Frost, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Doris Lessing, Marianne Moore, Eugene O’Neill, Ezra Pound, Dorothy Richardson, George Bernard Shaw, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Virginia Woolf, and W.B. Yeats” (Bedford). 

Certain characteristics of English Modern Literature experiment with stream of conscious.  These writers attempt to make “coherence in a fragmented, apparently senseless world” (Bedford).  Many writers expressed the absurdity of war while others turned to myth or symbols as Yeats “in order to express the psychological disease of modern life or to wrest meaning from an otherwise meaningless cosmos” (Bedford).  Yeats used “gyres” to allude to the cycles of life as a particular symbol.

American Modern Literature was influenced greatly by WWI and British writers of the time.  The Bedford Glossary refers to these writers (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, e.e. Cummings, Sherwood Anderson, and William Slater Brown) as the Lost Generation who viewed “traditional American values of their youth as a sham, given the senselessness of the war and its devaluation of human life” (Bedford).    

Many of these writers wanted to break away from traditional styles of writing.  They wanted to see what other forms or conventions could work.  I have personally found some of these pieces difficult to read.  They take time and understanding.  It’s best to understand the background of these authors.  What inspired them to write?  What were they going through?  What was happening in the communities or world they knew? Once we understand these questions, and apply them to the reading, true appreciation is gained.

For my studies and interests, the Modern Period is the foundation of that which I reach for.

Siegried Sassoon

“The Rear Guard” By Siegfried Sassoon

Groping along the tunnel, step by step,
He winked his prying torch with patching glare
From side to side, and sniffed the unwholesome air.

Tins, boxes, bottles, shapes too vague to know,
A mirror smashed, the mattress from a bed;
And he, exploring fifty feet below
The rosy gloom of battle overhead.
Tripping, he grapped the wall; saw someone lie
Humped at his feet, half-hidden by a rug,
And stooped to give the sleeper’s arm a tug.
“I’m looking for headquarters.” No reply.
“God blast your neck!” (For days he’d had no sleep.)
“Get up and guide me through this stinking place.”
Savage, he kicked a soft, unanswering heap,
And flashed his beam across the livid face
Terribly glaring up, whose eyes yet wore
Agony dying hard ten days before;
And fists of fingers clutched a blackening wound.
Alone he staggered on until he found
Dawn’s ghost that filtered down a shafted stair
To the dazed, muttering creatures underground
Who hear the boom of shells in muffled sound.
At last, with sweat of horror in his hair,
He climbed through darkness to the twilight air,
Unloading hell behind him step by step.

Siegfried Sassoon wrote that Britain’s military roles were acts of conquest rather than defense and liberation.  His poem rear-guard is one that any soldier can relate to in its general form. The soldier is disconnected and not referenced to as anything more than a pawn.  While war-hero propaganda was used to influence many to join the war efforts, Sassoon and others wrote of war’s true horror and outcomes.  Heros were rare – death and tragedy were abundant.

W. B. Yeats

“Sailing to Byzantium” By W. B. Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

This is by far one of my favorites from William Butler Yeats.  Lines like “gather me into the artifice of eternity” allude to his desire to remain immortal as the generations pass and the old become “a tattered coat on a stick.”  It is this need to live on that moves Yeats and so many others to write upon the layers of generational literature in which we reside.