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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Supreme Union



Greenwich Village, 1958.

"Once Yogi gets going, there's no stopping him, and I'm not sure, even if I do explain, that he really wants to understand." --The Beat on Ruby's Street

 I’m not from India but yes, I did go there. Never really studied with the masters, but people think I did. I like yoga mainly because I’m good at it. You could say it’s the only thing I’m good at, because I don’t have a job and I’m not an artist. Just a yogi. I guess.

Ruby wanted me to talk about my family but I don’t remember them, so what’s the point? I grew up in Hammond, Indiana. My dad worked on cars and mom was a school teacher. I left when I was 21 and never looked back. I wanted a different life.

I hooked up with a yoga teacher after the big war and really liked it. I’d been in the Philippines during the war working in the Signal Corps. Never did see action, which was fine with me. But I was glad to get out of there in 1945.

The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation), which is what I wanted all along. Mahabharata defines the purpose of yoga as the experience of Brahman or Ātman (inner self or soul) pervading all things. Yoga can also mean "connection", "contact", "method", "application", "addition" and "performance". In simpler words, Yoga also means "combined". My favorite way to describe it a philosophy that seeks union with the Supreme that comes out of postures and activities performed in daily life.

Apart from the spiritual stuff, doing yoga will pretty much fix all your health problems, if you have any. It’s really a complete exercise program and physical therapy routine, rolled into one. Mostly it keeps you from worrying.

Ruby says she worries sometimes, because I don’t have a place to live. I tell her I live everywhere. And nowhere. I’ve got a friend Sal who goes out of town a lot and he lets me stay at his place on 12th Street. A lot of nights I crash at Chumley’s. And I pretty much always get a shower when I’m at Sal’s.

I’m not one of those guys you have to feel sorry for. I don’t smell, for one thing. I made a pact with myself I wasn’t ever going to smell and I don’t. Ruby says I don’t. And I eat pretty good, mostly restaurant leftovers; there’s a lot of good stuff out here and you’d be surprised at what people throw away.

The main thing I tell Ruby is I’m trying to find enlightenment. The key to that is balance, not standing-on-one-leg but keeping mind, body and soul in harmony. She kind of screws up her face when I say that like she’s trying hard to understand me. No matter. She will or she won’t, and it’ll all work out somehow.

You can find me in Washington Square Park most days, at least, nice days. Library on rainy days or in the snow. Coffee houses too, when I get a little money. Sometimes I teach people some yoga positions in the park, and they pay me for it. So many call me Yogi I sometimes forget my own name.

It’s not Jim, not Pete and not Harry. It isn’t Nigel though sometimes I pretend it is. You’re hungry for it, aren’t you? I can tell. If you had time I’d say close your eyes and guess and maybe we’d get somewhere. But you’re impatient. Not good for your health, but, you still are.

Martin, but I won’t answer to it. Better to call me Yogi. That way I’ll turn around if you want supreme union with me.

Yogi: Randen Pederson