Monday, March 28, 2011

Bhakti in paradise

I'm in love. There is just no other way to describe how I feel about where I am and what I am living right now. Because I promised myself this trip would include time for writing in the formal sense, but I've been extremely content balancing my time between very actively soaking up every possible drop of the experience I'm immersed in, as well as mastering the art of sitting still and accomplishing the same goal very passively, I figured blogging is a good way to go. I'm in a constant satsang, translated from Sanskrit as good company or a spiritual gathering, at the highest level. I'm taking Jivamukti classes led by Sharon and David themselves, with Deva Premal on the mat nearby, having stimulating conversation about vedanta and life with Shyam Das over breakfast, joining in intimate kirtan sessions led by Deva, Mitten and Manose, and have I mentioned this is all taking place in an absolute paradise that time has forgotten in a way? I am part of a group from all around the world, each one with their own intriguing story to tell, love of yoga and the bhakti path uniting us.

Oh, and then there is the natural beauty that I could go on describing infinitely. The musky, slightly sticky smell of tropical forest meeting ocean shore. Flowers perfuming the morning air with their nectar. The smoothly worn rocks creating lovely little tidal pools to explore. The constant hum of cicadas, bird songs and the occasional bellow of a howler monkey. The night sky so dark with the moon so bright that everything is gently illuminated by its glow and the twinkling of the stars. The roll and roar of the surf as I become weightless and lose myself in the vastness of the ocean. The fact that I can walk a few minutes to a beach with no one on it but me and enjoy the divine pleasure of doing that in nothing but my flesh. . . amazing how a couple of patches of fabric can be so encumbering. More amazing still what it is to experience the total freedom and connection to Mother Earth that being in nature in the nude can bring.

Overwhelmingly, I've been in a bliss state. Even in the moments when my physical exhaustion was intense or an upwelling of emotion has brought forth tears, the bliss remains. I am in such an intimate and sacred space, and yet I feel so connected to everything and everyone, a true sense of the oneness that binds us all. Love, prem, shema, amor. . .call it what you want. The feeling is all- powerful and all-pervading. Love is what I feel, what I am. Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion, is love. I cannot express how fortunate I feel to be experiencing it in this way, surrounded by such love-filled souls, with the music of love filling our days and the love of Mother Earth filling our senses.

As the blog title goes, happily now beats happily ever after, and I am undeniably, unequivocally happily now. Namaste, dear ones.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What a day! What a lesson!

Are you familiar with the saying that goes something like "make sure your words are sweet in case you have to eat them later"? In a way I just lived through that. Yesterday, I had a pleasantly positive experience that prompted me to reflect on and share the sentiment that the beauty of not having expectations is that you get to experience the unexpected. Today, I had expectations (reasonable ones in my opinion) that didn't quite come to fruition, and the unexpected that I got instead was decidedly less than positive, at least in the moment. Gotta love life's sense of humor and way of really driving lessons home!

Details, juicy details. . .

The pleasantly positive was a get-together with someone I met recently. I wasn't looking, and had I been, this guy, on the surface, certainly isn't a match for all the criteria I likely would have been searching for. There are a lot of differences between us that might cause two other people to quickly surmise it isn't even worth the effort to have breakfast. But chemistry is chemistry, and as someone who does her absolute best to be present to and aware of all that comes across my path, I couldn't deny it. I have no idea where it will lead, nor do I have any attachment to the outcome, which is a HUGELY refreshing sensation. But I am really tickled to simply have had the fortuitous opportunity to share a bit of time and get to know a little of a very unexpected character. And sure, it doesn't hurt that there's a definite flirtatious element involved. . .I may not be actively looking, but that doesn't mean I don't notice and appreciate it all the same ;-)

Perhaps a big part of the reason I'm finding it so easy to be unattached to this situation is that I've been really enjoying some "me time" these days. Life has been busy. There have been a lot of major occurrences and shifts taking place for me and those closely surrounding me. It is really an ideal time to have the complete freedom of being on my own. The most delicious manifestation of my "me time" directly ties into me eating my words, however. This morning I was to depart for a solo vacation that I have been so looking forward to that words cannot describe. A week yoga retreat with renowned teachers and kirtan artists in a beautiful tropical setting, followed by a few days of surfing and R&R. Yummy yum yum! So I was none too thrilled when my phone rang at 3:30am to tell me my flight was canceled, setting in motion a day full of absurdly long hold-times with multiple airlines and other assorted travel industry-types, no sleep and me sitting in an airport at present waiting to catch a midnight flight thanks to my completely rearranged schedule. My expectation was that my travel plans would go off without a hitch. Instead a got a dose of the unexpected.

The beauty, however, is still abundantly clear to me, and that is the real gift. Yes, I am sleep deprived and not quite recovered from some allergy/cold thing that's had me coughing for days, so I'm exhausted. Yes, I am disappointed to miss even a moment of this retreat that means so much to me. Yes, I'd like to have American Airlines proverbial head on a platter. But all of that is able to be put aside with relative ease by simply reminding myself that everything in life happens with definite purpose and reason. While it may not always be easy to see in the moment, you never know what harm you have skirted or what gift you may receive as a result of the unexpected appearing in your life. If you can stay centered and calm, breathe deep and still strive to show up as the best you that you can be even in the most aggravating or challenging of times, that in and of itself is a beautiful gift. If you can remain so fully open in both heart and mind at all times that you are able to recognize beauty in a person or a place that you wouldn't have expected, that is a true gift as well.

I'm grateful for the turn of events over the past 36 hours. It has given me an opportunity for some wonderful reflection and to really live some of the most key principles of my spiritual path. And in the spirit of better late than never, I am still Pura Vida-bound and excited for an amazing adventure!! Wishing you the same, wherever you may be.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Meditation on my mind

I've been cultivating a meditation practice for about four years now, and as I am confident anyone who has attempted the same would agree, it ain't easy! The concept of sitting quietly on a cozy little cushion, candles lit, maybe some incense burning and meaningful images surrounding you may sound very relaxing and inviting. But once you park yourself in the midst of that setup and actually go about the business of turning inward and trying to silence your mind, it can quickly transform into a very trying and stressful situation. Our minds are in constant motion, full of thoughts, concerns, to-do lists, song lyrics, memories, you name it. All of that beautiful chaos swirls and swirls ceaselessly, so when you actually take the time to observe it all and slow it down hopefully to the point of silence, you immediately come to the realization that it will be no small feat.

Fear not! This isn't a story of doom and gloom. Rather, I've found from my own experience with mediation, and from the teachings and commentary of countless others, that there really is a payoff, even when it doesn't readily feel that way. Just by creating a space and time to develop your meditation practice in, you are taking positive steps forward. After a few months of meditating in the middle of my living room without much pomp or circumstance, I decided it was time to create a space and establish a routine for my practice to really blossom in. When I first created my altar, it literally felt like building a home for myself. My altar is a place where I can just be. No pretense. No judgement. No one but me, my soul, my mind and the Divine. And just like our traditional, physical homes, there are moments when I want to stay away. There are moments when the place that normally is the most safe and inviting scares me because I'm going through something heavy that I'm not quite ready to face. There are moments when I'm caught up in the distraction of "visiting" elsewhere, checking out other places and straying from my regular meditation practice, letting days or even weeks go by without sitting at my altar. But invariably, when I do return, it is the most delicious homecoming.

I had an experience like that this morning. It had been nearly a week since I sat at my altar for my practice of meditation and chanting, a morning routine that I've been doing for years. Thanks to all that experience, I know by now how good it is for me, and how much I end up enjoying it and benefitting from it, even when it feels like a total chore to get myself there. Today REALLY drove that message home. Maybe it is the new moon going into Aquarius or the auspicious day of Mahashivaratri or the fact that I'm PMSing or just the highs and lows of life lately. All I know is that when I sat down, closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, belted out a fews "oms" from the core of my being and then let the quiet start to come, I experienced an instant transformation. It was palpable. At first I felt a physical heaviness, like the weight of everything I've been carrying around lately collapsed on top of me. My eyelids in particular felt cemented down for a moment, but then a single tear slipped through each one. Those two tears released the pressure of the weight I'd felt just seconds before, and in its place came a lightness and a calm that immediately elevated my consciousness. It took me inward, connected body, breath, soul and mind. My thoughts slowed, my mantra flowed, and I was solely the observer. I was peace. This may have lasted ten seconds or ten minutes or more. I really don't know. It was a sensation beyond time. And that is the beauty of meditation.

Whether you're into yoga or not, whether your life is blissfully stress-free or a hot mess, meditate. Learn to sit with yourself, to slow down your thoughts enough to observe them rather than identify with them, to find the comfort and wisdom in this silent state. It is so essential to your well-being to learn how to really go inward and connect with the deeper, more subtle aspects of yourself. In that place, you find comfort, answers, strength, love and everything else that we spend so much time and energy searching for outside of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with getting the advice of a trusted friend or the warm embrace of the one you love when you need it, but think about how amazing it is to know that you can also give yourself all of that and more any time you choose just by quieting your mind and listening to your true voice.

Wishing you many a marvelous meditation. Namaste.