Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Heart at once hollow yet heavy and full. Beating and bleeding and burning for You.
Who is this “You” and who is this “me”? Is this heart even mine? As mine as it can be.
I would if I could, just let go, just let be. Stop the doing, stop the feeling and sit with just me.
If me is You and One are We, beyond the pain of separation, Truth is set free.
So I set my intention and You set your sails, gliding so effortlessly while my anchor trails.
Trying to lighten the load, I release. Yet the weight pulls me down again and there goes the peace.
Yours is the lightness and mine is the dark. Ah, but We are One. Reminder is a spark.
Sparking the memory of the time beyond time, absent the notion of a yours and a mine.
All that exists is Truth Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute. Sat Chit Ananda. Ain’t that the Truth?
So I’ve been told and so I believe, and so I keep seeking, Your billowing sails out at sea.
The sea of compassion, of mystery, of grace. Sea of abiding love and wholeness I taste.
I taste You in my blood, my tears, my nectar honey twist. Your ocean is in me so I know You exist.
What I know with my body can’t always be known with my mind. I turn my senses inward to feel what I find.
In this body live the Lover, the Beloved and the Love. I taste color, feel music and hear the wing of the dove.
Nothing makes sense in here and yet sense is all there is. You open me for receiving and I give and give and give.
Offering my yearning, the depth of my desire. Offering my devotion, my emotion, my fire.
Offering what is big in me and also what is small. Offering and offering in hopes You’ll take it all.
Take me, have me, do with me what You will. Please just use me, use me up, have Your fill.
Fill Yourself with me so that I am wholly in You. Only then will there be an end to loneliness and a resting in what is True.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
The guest as God[ess]
So goes the credo in India, and I have to say that for whatever harshness or inconvenience traveling to the great Mother may invariably include, this is always a sweetly welcomed constant. Without fail, wherever I have roamed on this subcontinent, when I get where I’m going and many times along the way there too, I have been received with such warmth in the welcoming and sincerity in the attending that it manages to soften the edges and melt the daggers of even the craziest episodes.
I live much of my life in the world of guest as interruption, guest as intrusion, guest as yet another item on the overflowing to-do list that has to be checked off. In that world not speaking the language will get you glared at as incompetent. There you don’t often show up unannounced on someone’s doorstep or go out of your way to accompany someone on an errand run that more closely resembles a wild goose chase. You tend to yourself and expect that by and large others are doing the same. Independence and self-sufficiency are the credo. Most of the time in most circles anyway.
Not so here. As I sit writing, Vishnu, a nineteen-year-old attendant at the lush, idyllic Ayurvedic retreat I’m visiting, is waiting me on. He’s walking up the tree-lined path with an adorably bright smile on his mustached little face, carrying fresh coconuts for me to drink. Yes, that’s his job. But he does his job with such a sweetness and genuine appreciation for being of service that it lights a smile in me each and every time I see him. And I see him a lot! He manages to be everywhere, all the time, always available to any need or whim that may arise in each and every guest here. He takes his responsibility seriously, but not himself. He’s gracious and humble and seems so much older than his not quite two times ten turns around the sun.
And it isn’t just Vishnu. It’s Saraswati, Jendi, Asmin, Karnan, Kiran, Kanakaraj, Laksmi, Rao, Srinivas, and so many other aunties, uncles, guides, hosts, drivers, attendants and random angels encountered on trains, buses and sidewalks who live this credo of treating the guest as God. The very villagers who scrub the floors and prepare the meals at your guest house consider themselves honored and are so wholly delighted to have you pop into their home without warning, quickly offering up a plate of some tasty snack and introducing every member of their extended family to you, whether in-person or by photo. And never mind a language barrier. Smiles, laughter, hand gestures and a couple of key words are more than enough to feel the depth of emotion and grasp the gist of what’s being transmitted.
I’ve had strangers escort me through train stations to ensure I made it to the right platform. The same guy who had the grace to look away and leave me in silence while I vomited in our shared bunk on an overnight bus come morning was making certain I knew what stop to get off to make my way to my destination. Many others want a photo memory of me and taking them at their word, some of those photos now appear in frames and on altar spaces in more than one India home. I can’t begin to understand why that is, but we’ll leave that for another blog!
With this one what I hope to convey is the beauty that I encounter daily among the people here, and what it evokes in me. It raises ruminations on independence versus interdependence, what community truly means to me, the way in which I choose to receive and engage with the people around me. To integrate this credo of treating all of those around me as gods and goddesses, not just because it sounds quaint but because I truly recognize the divinity in each and every being is an ideal I wholly aspire to.
Being here also shows me how I still have so far to go. There are many miles yet to walk before my external eyes are able to truly glimpse that divine light shining in all beings. There are miles left to go in shedding my amazingly stubborn conditioning that taught me doing for myself was the best, and often expected, way to get things done. India is a phenomenal equalizer for that one! I simply cannot do everything by myself here. Moreover, I cannot do most things by myself here. I get to be a child again in so many ways, allowing myself to be led, taught, cared for, fed, even bathed and dressed in certain instances! It’s humbling and it’s also heart opening.
As my heart opens to receive these gracious offerings, my mind opens as well. It fills with colorful visions of interdependence as the pervading norm in all corners of the globe. But the globe is big and often I feel small. So I start small. I set intentions. Let my smile be so big and sincere as to brighten another’s day. Let me be the one to patiently and kindly offer directions to someone who is lost, literally or figuratively. Let me be fortunate enough to receive a knock at my door from an unexpected guest and welcome them with a tea or a treat or simply a moment of my uninterrupted, truly focused time. Let me feel gratitude and devotion for the work I am blessed to do, no matter how menial or exalted the task.
It isn’t that these intentions are new to me. It isn’t that all of India, or all Indians, are sunshine and rainbows while the U.S. is absent of any redeeming qualities or utterly amazing people. It’s not that black and white. And all of this is just my story anyway. So if it’s my story, let me tell it with authenticity. A big part of why I travel, and why I keep coming back to India even with so much of the world awaiting me, is because I feel authentic here and I am reminded of the story that is closest to my heart. When I am here, I remember. I remember who I am and what I know to be true. I remember why I have chosen this path and how it is guiding me toward living these intentions more and more with each step I take. I remember that I am not the only one who feels small sometimes, and that compassion is SO needed, just as needed as the reminder that great things come in small packages and can have a HUGE impact!
I hope you’ll remember with me, and I hope you’ll tell your own story with authenticity.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Wander and wander to the point of exhaustion,
Whirl until you lose all control,
Dance until you are ready to drop.
Fall to the earth.
Surrender to the swirl of sensations
Surging through your form.
Dissolve in awe as arising energies
Continue the dance in your inner world.
Beyond motion and commotion,
Become the body of ecstasy.
Vijnana Bhairava Tantra: The Radiance Sutras
Translation by Lorin Roche
Wander, I have. Whirl, I have. Dance, I have. And drop, now, here, finally, I have.
I’ve traveled far and deep along this seeker’s path, wandering for so long to find what felt like home. And in the wandering I have whirled and twirled into many a temporary shelter, taking solace, receiving nourishment, but not quite feeling settled and full. Oh, and the dance! I love it so. So many partners, so many styles, so many spaces. The dance spun me forward until the moment came for it to let me go.
And here I lay now, surrendered to the embrace of The Mother, fallen not from grace but into it, earthly and cosmic realms merged into one as she holds me here that I may know her through my own self.
I lay still as she moves me, currents of energy coursing through me, pulsing from the root, core and heart of my being. The dance is not over. It has only just begun! She dances in me, and I know what it is to feel ecstasy now. I know what it is to be ecstasy now.
For so long the search was for something beyond myself, something that could be given to me from the outside so that I might possibly taste Her sweetness inside. My mind understood this was a fool’s game, but my body did not yet know. My body had not yet surrendered. It still craved the erotic touch of an external lover for it had not yet been refined enough to feel the One who lives within.
Awakening now to the power and the passion as my initiation unfolds, I find myself falling deeper and deeper each day into a space beyond space and a time beyond time that is at once unknown and entirely familiar. Just when I think I am touching ground, I am shown how much further there is to journey still. This earthly and cosmic Mother is endless, infinite and so sublime. If eternity is what it takes to know her, I will be dedicated, patient and happy in the pursuit.
Sacred and precious, this time beyond time and space beyond space, I’ve felt moved to express myself freely and yet aware of the call to go inward. The energy I am cultivating must be channeled with discretion, wisdom and compassion into the appropriate vessels and pursuits. This is new for me, one so open and inclined to share. I am learning how to not just receive but contain in the most beautiful of ways.
What a sweet beginning, and there is so much more to explore beyond the motion and commotion. As many ways to dissolve in awe as there are ways that She manifests Herself. A limitless body of ecstasy to be.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
There are certain aspects of coming to India that I may not love, yet have come to expect and even understand. Not only do oceans and continents divide India from my North American homeland, but culture, customs, and in many places I visit, modern conveniences as well. To give you an idea, any trip here is bound to include:
- Bathing from a bucket rather than a shower
- Cows competing with you in traffic
- Blaring horns announcing every passing vehicle, JUST IN CASE they didn’t already see you with your high beams on
- Peeing on your shoes (or your bare feet) because let’s face it: we western women aren’t necessarily masters of squat toilet etiquette
- Consuming obscene amounts of carbs
- Practically nothing happening on schedule
While none of these is pleasant from my privileged, first world perspective, none of these is intolerable either. We humans are marvelously malleable creatures, and you’d be amazed what you can adapt to. It saddens me to say I’ve even grown accustomed to the frequent sight of malnourished beings, two- and four-legged, all around me, and Mother Earth herself being horribly mistreated.
Yet none of what I’ve seen in my time in India prepared me for what I witnessed yesterday. The truth is, had I seen this anywhere in the world, I’d have been just as stunned and stricken. And the even sadder truth is that this actually does happen just about everywhere in the world, as much as I’d like to believe otherwise.
Yesterday I saw a man beat his wife.
On a street corner.
With several men standing around watching.
Just like me.
I was in an auto rickshaw, a very popular method of transportation here that is basically a 3-wheeled scooter with a roof and bench seats. The sides are completely open and you get the experience of being at one with all that is whizzing past you as you travel. For some reason I wasn’t sure of, our driver had paused to stop right as this scene was taking place, and so I had a front row seat to one of the most tragic things I’ve ever born witness to with my own eyes.
She was sitting and he was somehow simultaneously shoving her and pulling her up to standing. At first I wasn’t entirely certain I was witnessing an act of abuse. There was a moment when it looked like he could have even been helping her up, albeit roughly. The irony there is, from what I understand of the mentality that so many battered women have, especially those who are impoverished and living in a country where many women are still effectively the property of their men, they actually do feel that way. They feel their abusive husbands are actually doing them some sort of service, or at least that they have the right to treat them in these ways.
So he got her up, and then any doubt I had as to what I was watching was laid to rest as he raised his hand and laid it across her face.
On a street corner.
With several men standing around watching.
Just like me.
His face was twisted with bitterness and rage. Hers with dejection and disgust. Mine was frozen.
In fact, I don’t think I have ever felt so frozen in my life. Even as I sat wedged between two friends in a now-moving vehicle, there was an impulse to jump out and grab her away, whisking her to safety. But I didn’t. I couldn’t move an inch. The instinct for self-preservation was stronger than the instinct to help. As sad as I was to watch this scene play out, I was even sadder to accept that realization.
I began to thaw quickly. Silently prayers of protection and liberation on her behalf rang through my head has tears spilled down my cheeks. Still my body felt numb, the weight of the experience cementing me to my seat, holding me prisoner just like she must feel. I hurt for her. I hurt for me. I hurt for every woman everywhere who has ever felt anything short of the sublimely sovereign, empowered, perfect goddess that she is, which is basically the same as saying I hurt for every single woman on earth.
I know of none among us who haven’t, at one point or another in some way or another, felt beat down and unworthy. I’ve certainly been there, and yet no man has ever raised a hand to me, and I feel confident in saying no man ever will. To witness a sister in that position was unspeakably painful. And to quickly assimilate the realization that this is happening far more than I’m aware of just amplified that in spades, sharpening the edge of the sad truth that I had done nothing to stop it.
It happens that this whole experience took place right as I am spending time at a place called Devipuram, where empowerment is literally the mission statement, and revering the feminine principle is engrained in the path. Using the guidance of the ancient, sacred wisdom of Sri Vidya, auspicious knowledge associated with the Shakta, or goddess-worshipping path of Hinduism, Devipuram is a rare and special place where anyone from any walk of life is welcome to learn tools of empowerment. By way of spiritual teachings and social outreach, Devipuram gives men and women alike the opportunity to realize our divine potential and tap into this limitless power within ourselves, as well as share it with others.
So the scene playing out before me came in stark contrast to the environment I’ve been in, the environment I’m in more often than not. I’m a woman who adores women, who feels a deep sense of duty around supporting my sisters, and who is fortunate to keep company with men who extend the same reverence to us as we do ourselves. I’d just seen the shadow side of the light I live in, and that contrast is actually a precious gift.
Reflecting on the contrast of these two extremes, I got the strong and clear message that while I may have felt impotent in the moment, I am anything but. I am empowered with all the grace, compassion and purpose of Devi herself. And I have the added benefit of having realized this, on some level at least. So if one, or many, of my sisters has not yet realized this for herself, I have the power to help her. I have the power to extend a hand in place of the one that has been raised, and lead her toward the light. I may not have acted in the moment the way I'd like to think I would have, but I can act in other ways that empower going forward.
I don’t yet know exactly how this will transform my path. I don’t yet know exactly how I will take this call to action and turn it into an offering to help women like the sister I bore witness to ascend from the shadow they’re caught in. What I know is there are no coincidences, and painful as this was, it was necessary. This is something I needed to see and feel so that I can tap into even greater grace, compassion and purpose for the greater good.
If I may make a request, please join me in a moment of prayer. Call it reflection or meditation or silence if you prefer. Just join me please, right now, by closing your eyes, gazing into your heart and emanating a vibration of love and safety to all beings everywhere who are caught in the shadow. Join me in intending that there will soon come a day when all women (men, children and animals too!) will be seen and treated as the divine beings they truly are and live lives free from violence and full of peace.
Om Sri Matrye Namah.