My Pilgrimage to Ananda

My mom has been zealously inviting me to visit her at the ashram where she lives for… wow… maybe a couple of years now…But I’ve just never felt quite right about dropping the tight reins of my life and skipping insouciantly off to her holy land.  Until  now.  Yup.  I write this blog entry from Ananda, an ashram founded by a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda nestled in the foothills of the Sierras (Nevada City).  Yogananda has always been near and dear to my heart, all throughout my life.  I guess he’s the closest thing I ever had to an “imaginary friend”.  Sad to say… since I think imaginary friends are like the coolest ever.  I mean basically they’re spirit guides that love you to bits, play obscure games with you and whisper the secrets of the universe in your ear in the most lucid yet childishly comprehensible terms.  Yogananda never played with me.  He might have told me secrets, but I was too dense to decipher them.  But I’m not complaining, because his constant, subtle and entirely loving presence has hovered gently on the edge of my life, always.  And when I look in his eyes, I know the love that I am striving to drown in.

Another thing I realized about Yogananda recently is that HE is the primary poet who has inspired my own devotional relationship to words.  It was not Hafiz… He gets second place.  Rumi takes third.  Yogananda is not known as a poet, but trust me~ he IS a poet.  His love for the Divine is *romantic*, passionate, pure, effulgent.  When I read his poetic prayers, I am transported to that place where matter becomes spirit becomes space and dancing light.  Through his devotionally soaked words, I have splashed in my share of epic fountains of liquid love, spilling in endless tiers of rainbow streams drenching deep velveteen space scapes strewn with spiraling galaxies.  In other words, his words take me Home.  Just to set the record straight.

In meditation this morning, I remembered a dream that I had just before waking up at four something this morning.  I was leaving an all night party, trying to find my boots among many pairs of unclaimed shoes.  I kept seeing other women putting on similar boots.  Mistaking them for mine, I’d approach them to take my boots back.  But upon closer examination, I would realize they were not mine.  I was feeling confused and helpless, though very focused.  I think it means that I am struggling to recognize my own path right now… looking all over on the outside, which usually proves to be fruitless.  At least in my experience.  I never did find my boots.  But DAMNIT, I will.  Mark my words!

I am LOVING getting an inside view of my mom’s intimate world!  I realize that I have not seen this much of her day to day reality since I lived with her as a teenager.  Now I’m thirty and she’s sixty two and it feels paradoxically worlds different, and yet very familiar.  I sorta feel like we are college roommates or something.  She has this cute little bedroom all to herself and I have made a modest bed on the floor.  (She planned to sleep on the floor and give me her single bed, but I begged for the floor.  Partly because I’m not used to being so bound by the coffin-esque confines of such a small bed and partly because I would incinerate in guilt making my sixty two year old mother sleep on the floor.  Shrug.  I don’t mind the hard floor.  My futon at home is pretty hard anyway, so I am used to it.)  I love being in her bedroom.  It has such a nice vibe.  She’s never been the type to have all the stiff, fancy “grown-up” possesions.  You know what I mean?  Like high quality furniture sets made of dark, beautiful wood with cream colored linens and very deliberate decorum.  No, her space is more like a collage of all the random preciousness that she has accrued over the course of her long, full life.  (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t perceive sixty two as old… I did when I was a kid… but now that I’m older and my parents are older, “old” has been pushed back to late seventies.)  I love studying the contents of her crowded book shelves.  She has so many books that I could easily rip off the shelf and swan dive into.  But I don’t… cuz I’m too ADD and I can barely manage existing in my enthusiasm for books.  It takes me months to read a single one.  And mostly, rather than reading any lately, I have been feeling like a deer in the headlights, blinded by all my burning literary choices.

But my mom’s books excite me.  And so do all the random little do-dads and plants that contribute to the eclectic, spiritual and fun-loving culture of her bedroom.  It’s a little cluttery… but it’s the kind of clutter that smiles at you, demanding that you befriend it and take comfort in its volumes of soulful hidden stories.  Plants, framed pictures of various members of her guru posse, an impressively tall statue of Saint Frances, a smaller though entirely rockin’ Quan Yin statue, a framed photo of my little brother and his girlfriend at the prom, prisms and incense and BEST OF ALL, this big butterfly that I cut out of thick paper and painted for her when I was nineteen.  It is SO amazing!  I should take a picture of it and show you.  Its layers are endless~ dried flowers, acrylic paint, glitter.  What she doesn’t know, is that I made it for her while I was on mushrooms.  She’ll know now, because she reads my blog.  Pitty pat goes my heart.  That’s the trouble with being a writer committed to digging around in the nooks and crannies where mostly benign, fleeting truths hide out… sometimes it makes me tense for a few minutes.  But what can I say?  I’d rather that than hold it all in.

God, there’s so much more that I want to tell you… but I’m almost at a thousand words.  I sure hope tomorrow comes, so I get another crack at it!  One more thing, okay?!  It’s along the lines of having the blessed opportunity to peer into my mom’s day to day life, rather than just know her through whatever she chooses to tell me over the telephone, or over a meal on a short visit.  We ate breakfast together this morning after sadhana (a two hour practice involving energization exercises, asana and meditation!  Such a nourishing way to begin a day!  Jesus!  I LOVE IT.).  And how tickled was I to get to observe what she ate.  I love these mundane things… now that I think about it I think it’s a sin not to know what your own mother eats for breakfast!  Here’s what she ate~ A little bowl of oatmeal with a few dollops of plain yogurt on top, two pieces of sprouted whole wheat toast with one single, foil wrapped pat of butter divided between them and raspberry jam on top of each and a generous helping of orange wedges.  Oh, and a cup of coffee with cream.  I can’t quite tell you why, but witnessing this simple facet of my mother filled me with freestyle delight, which is still coursing through my veins.  I’m takin’ it to the grave, I swear.

She is SO happy to have me here.  I can tell.  The weird thing about mothers is that you can NEVER fully empathize with them until you ARE one.  You just can’t.  A mother’s love for her children is not something that language and concept could ever do justice to.  So I don’t quite know exactly what the song in her heart feels or sounds like from the inside.  But I do know that through my presence here in her sacred day to day world, something deep inside her is fed and filled.  I am so grateful for the healing of our relationship.  We went through some DARK times, which Grace has only breathed resplendent illumination on in the last couple of years.  But trust me when I say that walking through the darkness makes the light so much SWEETER.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. spirit2go
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 17:25:33

    AHHHHHHHHHHH, I feel so happy for you. Treasure this time with her in that special place. It sounds so centering. Stay and when you leave, take some away with you..


  2. dan
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 17:29:42

    Amen and Amen.
    You are where you need to be for this moment and you are REALLY there. Halleluya!!
    Be there NOW!
    This is my favorite Blog I think….so much heart….so much YOU!!
    Love you


  3. souldipper
    Jul 10, 2010 @ 00:33:28

    What an incredible experience, Athena Grace. That makes me live in a great big “Ahhhh…” for both of you. And you brought to mind that I sat down with my Dad who worked away from home all the years I lived at home, in my thirties, “Dad, I need to know you. What was the happiest day of your life? What makes you feel sad? Do you believe in God?”

    That interview still carries me back to his love. Out of it came two welcome surprises: He loved me (we were not a demonstrative family) and he had one wicked and divine sense of humour that carried wisdom in its pouch.

    Thanks for sharing your mom!

    – Amy


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