Saturday, December 20, 2014

Back with my Beloved

I am here, again, back in India, experiencing the madness and the magic that is her trademark. She is a land of extremes, a land of oxymorons and sometimes-strange juxtapositions, of opulence alongside filth, aloneness felt among a throng of people, a sense of going slowly amidst constant chaos. She is a land I love, and like all love, it changes over time.

Returning to her for my third visit, we meet with the awkward familiarity of lovers who’ve been apart for a while. She knows how to receive me now, and I her, yet there’s an adjustment period, feeling each other out slowly even as we embrace fervently. I dive into her, hungry for the taste of her signature sweetness, then pull back, quickly intoxicated and unsteady from the drunkenness. In sleep it takes me time to adjust to her, crashing from the sheer exhaustion of all it took to reach her and the daylight hours spent taking her in voraciously only to awaken frequently in the night as if I were newly sharing my bed again.

So it was this time around, different than the times before. It took me pretty much all of my first five days in Mumbai to begin to feel like myself with her. It actually took me leaving Mumbai to head for higher elevations, cleaner air and clearer skies, a true Indian hill station retreat, for me to wake up feeling properly grounded and truly present for my beloved.

Like all women who know their worth, she demands I be fully present for her. Only then will she open to me and really let me in.

And she has. She opened to me and bid me welcome into a realm that feels quite like heaven on earth.

I write this from Govardhan Ecovillage, a most inspiring and precious sanctuary of devotion to Mother Bhumi, Mother Earth. After hearing of the incredible work being done here thanks to the wise and loving vision of Radhanath Swami, a much-adored leader of the ISKCON community, I knew I had to come and see it myself. This year has been largely marked by my initiation into permaculture, living in community and a profound deepening of my spiritual path. While I am not a devotee of this lineage, I have been fortunate to spend many a memorable moment in the sweet company of members of the Hare Krishna community, so being among them here is easy and comfortable for me. Being with my beloved Bhumi is effortless ecstasy. It is here that I can finally be fully present to India. It is here that I feel I can simply be.
I realized while in Mumbai that despite genuinely appreciating and enjoying the sights I visited, the temples I prayed in and the encounters I had, I wasn’t fully there. I’ve gotten very easily adjusted living in close proximity to nature in my new home in the redwoods and hilly terrain of northern California. Being in such a metropolitan environment, even one surrounded by the sea like Mumbai, forces me to close off parts of myself without my even realizing it. That partial shutdown doesn’t allow me to be totally available to anything or anyone. I need nature, Bhumi, my true love, to feel whole. That’s quite a revelation for a girl who has lived her entire life in a city.

Driving to GEV, even as I fought back carsickness bouncing along roads in desperate need of repair that are typical of rural India, I felt a sense of calm coming over my body and mind. The embrace of the Sahyadri Mountains surrounding me, the lush green from so many trees, the brilliance of blue in the midday sky and the sounds of birds singing sweetly were all balm to my soul. I’d glimpsed that feeling in moments in the days prior – exploring the stunning caves and carvings of Shiva on Elephanta Island and meditating in solitude in the breathtaking Vipassanna Global Pagoda – but they were fleeting, and the knowledge that I would settle here for a few days put me at ease.
There’s a sensitivity to my system that I didn’t feel during my prior encounters with this great love of mine. She’s been working on me even while I was away, furthering my initiation to her wondrous ways, casting her spell. She’s making me more discerning and challenging me to uphold her highest standards in situations that are at times tricky to navigate. Again, it is her demand of my full presence, and she is testing me to ensure my worthiness.

Yet I clearly understand that I am not proving my worth to her. No.  She already knows me better than I know myself. And so these tests are for me. All of this is so I come to know my own worth, my own truth and to understand not only what I’m made of but also what I’m made for. This whole love affair is an elaborate teaching, and I, the eager student, bow humbly at my guru’s feet.

I feel full of adoration and awe, full of excitement to be back with her, my teacher, my lover, my mother, my India. This leg of the journey has only just begun, and yet I know it will be the most powerful and potent one yet. I am in deeper communion with her than ever before, intent on opening fully as a channel for Her grace to flow through- that is why I came. So the “why” is clear. The “what” is the mystery set to unfold as I travel on.

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