When I was a student in High School I had a teacher who loved the phrase “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” Though there is truth to this phrase I could never get my mind beyond the image of a skinned cat, or why anyone would want to skin a cat in the first place. I understand why my teacher used this phrase so frequently, she really wanted us to comprehend and understand perspective and the difference in perspective from person to person. Over the years, and especially now as a teacher myself I do my best to explain the teaching of multiple perspectives without using this phrase, however, I like Ms. J. have a pension for the skinning of the cat metaphor.
Today I arrived at Shree to attend Doug’s 3:30 pm Hatha Flow class and was pleasantly surprised to find Monica there to sub as Doug is in France. I have attended a class of Doug’s before and very much enjoyed it, so I like most regular students to any class would be, found myself a little out of place. Finding a sub when you were expecting someone else can be unnerving. Some studios notify their students of subs beforehand because this experience of finding the surprise sub can really upset some students. I personally believe that there is always something of value to uncover in any yoga class, or life scenario for that matter, and in this willingness is an opportunity to enjoy the surprise and the excitement of the new world of a substitute yoga teacher. As a matter of fact Suki and I both agreed that this is an excellent yoga practice, the practice of openness and willingness, and for that reason we do not notify our students beforehand of subbed classes, if a teacher wishes to do that it is based on their perspective.
With willingness I unrolled my mat. Monica invited us to begin our class standing, which sent me straight to the thought of a skinned cat as in that moment it occurred to me I do not often begin a class standing and there are as many styles of yoga as there are people who teach yoga, and do yoga. As I contemplated this awareness Monica with her kind, gentle, and melodic voice moved us through a series of standing poses, supine poses, back bends, abdominal strengtheners and seated twisting postures. It was a delightful potpourri of asana to prepare us for a tranquil and easy savasana. As we rested sweetly in corpse pose letting the efforts of our practice congeal into the resting yet never static energy of our bodies Monica shared a passage from Lau-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching.
The passage, verse number 42 transported me away into what I consider to be the deepest delight and most valuable reward of practicing yoga, true calm peace. After class I asked Monica which verse she read to us thinking it would be pertinent to share in this post. I found that like the many different styles of yoga there are to teach, there are many different translations of the Tao Te Ching, I myself have three copies to refer to, and after reading through them before sitting down to write this offering, I again reveled in the contemplation of perspective and how each of theses different translations offered me again the gift of my own interpretation and awareness.
Verse 42 translated by Stephen Mitchell
The Tao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to Two.
Two gives birth to Three.
Three gives birth to all things.
All things have their backs to the female
and stand facing the Male.
When male and female combine,
all things achieve harmony.
Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole Universe.
Verse 42 translated by Gai-Fu Feng and Jane English
The Tao begot One.
One begot Two.
Two begot Three.
And Three begot the Ten Thousand Things.
The Ten Thousand things carry yin and embrace yang.
They achieve harmony by combining these forces.
Men hate to be “orphaned,” “widowed,” or “worthless,”
but this is how Kings and Lords describe themselves.
For one gains by loosing
And looses by gaining.
What others teach, I also teach; that is:
“A violent man will die a violent death!”
This will be the essence of my teaching.
Verse 42 translated by Red Pine
The Taos gives birth to one
one gives birth to two
two gives birth to three
three gives birth to ten thousand things
ten thousand things with yin at their backs
and yang in their embrace
and breath between for harmony
what the world hates
to be orphaned widowed or destitute
kings use for their tittles
some gain by loosing
thus what people teach
I teach too
tyrants never choose their deaths
this becomes my teacher.
Monica’s reading in class tonight was from a translation compleatly different from any of these. Her translation was a clear offering to an invitation to enjoy the point of fullness between the inhale and the exhale.
In the translation I have by Red Pines is a further exploration of the teaching;
Ho-Shang Kung says, “The Taos gives birth to the beginning. One gives birth to yin and yang. Yin and Yang give birth to the breath between, the mixture clear and turbid. These three divide themselves into Heaven, Earth, and Man and together give birth to the ten thousand things. These elemental breaths are what keep the ten thousand things relaxed and balanced. The organs in our chests, the marrow in our bones, the spaces inside plants allow these breaths passage and make long life possible.”
Like Ms. J. used to say “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” Each of us has the opportunity to perceive this life, these ten thousand things however we choose. May we always remember that is a gift.
After reading all of these translations and contemplating Monica’s offering, I perceive the teaching as an invitation and an opportunity to enjoy this short and sweet life, between the inhale and the exhale, between the yin and the yang, between the force and complacency in the spaciousness and tranquility of peace.
Blessings on your beautiful evening, With love, Always, For Giving,