Yoga Heart: Lines on the Six Perfections by Leza Lowitz (2011-07-19)
“Yoga Heart is highly recommended for people who will not only read the lines for enjoyment, but also use them for contemplation and right action in life. All author proceeds from the sale of the book go to relief efforts for people and animals affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. That’s the first perfection in action.”
“The great lesson from the true mystics . . . is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s back yard.”
In Yoga Heart: Lines on the Six Perfections, author Leza Lowitz similarly emphasizes the importance of our interconnectedness with fellow creatures, nature, the ecosystem and even the atmosphere. In fact, she writes, a “disconnect from others, from our deepest selves, and from nature is the cause of so many of our problems.”
According to Buddhist teaching, the Paramitas, or perfections, are inborn qualities that provide a blueprint for living and for transcending the causes and effects we experience in life. The English words Ms. Lowitz chooses for the perfections are: generosity, kindness, patience, joyful effort, stillness, and wisdom. In Yoga Heart, she offers a simple explanation of the Paramitas—practices which, done diligently, can perfect human life and lead to peacefulness regardless of circumstance or the appearance of life experiences.
Ms. Lowitz’s teacher advised her to “just live your best life,” and in Yoga Heart, she does just that, presenting 60 poems inspired by nature, yoga, poetry, and numerous Eastern and Western traditions. She stays true to her intention to keep the language simple and from the heart. She says, “The best we can do is seek happiness so we can help others find happiness. These poems are a record of my attempt to do that, and an offering to my teachers and all those on the path.”
When the Paramitas are taught, generosity comes first, and so it is in Yoga Heart. In her introduction, “Off the Mat, Into the World,” author Lowitz gives a glimpse into the book’s beginning and its turning points, including a frank discussion of the self-examination she practices as she lives the yogic yamas (social ethics) of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, conservation of all one’s energies, and non-greed.
The lines in Yoga Heart offer some very direct language about how we choose to look at others and ourselves, in the form of profound questions and statements. Ms. Lowitz deals with down to earth, common human calamities and the mess of “monkeymind.” She masterfully uses few lines to tell a story and deliver a lesson. Likewise, Akiko Tanimoto’s calligraphy is generous in its simplicity. Her elegant brushstrokes reflect all the Paramitas, especially joyful effort and kindness.
Yoga Heart is a tiny treasure to hold and to behold. Even the typography and colors are food for contemplation. The book includes endnotes and a bibliography. It’s a heartfelt tribute to Nippon and Nihonjin—Japan and the Japanese people—who are known for their calm, dignity, ability, order, preparedness, and honesty.
In the poem “The Six Perfections,” some of the descriptors Ms. Lowitz uses are, “the path . . . a shelter, a home, a goal. . . .” After the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, she kept her yoga studio open, and people took refuge in the community and the practice more than ever before. She says, patience is “slowing down, taking time to wait, being okay with not knowing what will happen next.”
Yoga Heart is highly recommended for people who will not only read the lines for enjoyment, but also use them for contemplation and right action in life. All author proceeds from the sale of the book go to relief efforts for people and animals affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. That’s the first perfection in action.