Clumsy Integration

It’s amazing how much life can be crammed into the span of a single week, day or even an hour. Last time I offered my inner world to the page, I was still at Ananda, and pretty sure that Ed and I were in our not-so-grand finale. Today I am in Oakland, at good olde Pizzaiolo. It’s morning, the sky is soupy-gray and I’m contemplating putting a jacket on. Don’t tell anybody, but a huge rat just scampered across the worn, wooden floor. I can hear the feminine trill of distant opera, mingling with the sound of clinking glasses, the soft aum of a humming motor and the shhhh of water rushing from a faucet.

It feels good to tell you simple, grounding things, rather than leaping straight for the land beyond the moon. I want to be the white-haired couple who are settling in two tables away from me. They each have a news paper and a morning bun. The man just gave a little jar of homemade jam to a dude who works here. His face is bright and inviting. Gosh, I’m noticing that the grass sure looks greener beyond just about EVERY fence these days. Certainly this seasoned pair is every bit as human as I, but in this moment, they represent simplicity to me; non-striving. Presence and contentment.

And then there’s Athena Grace, working so hard. Working so hard to integrate this being human. To heal my mind, my perception of the past… To dream not just MY future, but OUR future. The future of my human family. Fatigued and determined, I climb my own self-imposed walls in hopes of scaling them and discovering a panoramic view of Truth and Love and Infinity. Who will hold me while I break down and sob?… but not for TOO long. Just enough to cleanse and polish the mirror of my soul… and then I’ll carry on. Carry on with this alchemical mission of Awakening. I promise to give away everything that is revealed to me. What’s mine is yours.

Oh stark contrast! I left the pristine gentleness of the Momshram on sunday. My Ma drove me to Emeryville, where the archangels, Jennille and Marty are now hosting me in the guest room of their thirtieth floor penthouse apartment. As Ma and I rode the elevator up, up, up to the foothills of Heaven, we made conversation with a fellow passenger, over the elevator’s sudden, inexplicable inundation of the scent fried chicken. When he exited the shiny chamber, I cheerily called after him, “Enjoy yourself!”

“I’m sure I won’t,” he replied as the door slid shut. Stupified and tickled I looked at my Ma and giggled, “I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore.” And thus began my decent back into this limping, glamorous urban world.

From an ashram to a penthouse. Now I have an epic view of a bay of liquid silver, veiled in thick, white mist and bleeding, electric sunsets through grimy floor to ceiling windows. Like all poetry at it’s finest, it comes swaddled in thick paradox. Thirty floors below, flows an incessant river of traffic: the 80 freeway. From purring crickets and dark, pristine skies pierced with starlight, to growling semi-trucks and endless, rolling scapes of city lights. My nervous system is recalibrating. It doesn’t feel graceful, but more like riding down a mile-long sandpaper slide.

Yes, I’m being dramatic. But I’m also about to start my period, and I feel sensitive and raw. And let’s factor in that the morning after my descent back into this epicentric urban madness, I began a week-long tantra yoga immersion. Just when I felt spiritually grounded… I had to go and rip up the floorboards; peel off the scab.

Pedro, my teacher keeps affirming that tantra and classical yoga are grossly disparate. While classical yogis give their all to denying/renouncing/transcending physical reality, tantrics EMBRACE this physical plane and recognize it ALL as divine. I can see the value in BOTH. I want to transcend it all as I fully, gracefully inhabit it. I guess that’s more tantric than classical… if you must slice it all apart with a scalpel. Well… it stings my heart every time Pedro scoffs at Patanjali and classical yoga.

From my “partial perception”, (as Pedro refers to each person’s unique, galactic vantage point) the practitioners of classical yoga, as illuminated by the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, are all very grounded and embodied in this earthly reality, living lives of harmony, devotion and service. I don’t see negation of life… only a grounded embrace. And yet, personally I don’t want to dress modestly and diminish my sexuality. I want to dance naked and glorious in the sloshy tides of warm, salty, semi-figurative, tropical dawns.

I guess what I’m driving at, is that I am feeling clumsy as I integrate all that I have lived and learned, to form a coherent and empowering view of reality. And when it gets to complicated, I find solace in the remembrance that I mostly want to be a kind, loving, honest and inspiring human being. I want to live by example; take care of all of my Brothers and Sisters, (yep, that means YOU, beloved child of God) and this magnificent planet on which we dance. I want to be happy and free and at peace. That is more than enough.

Amen.

Dissolved And Broken Open

Looking at the blank page right now is daunting because I am changing so fast and attempting to put it into words seems like having a foot race with a shooting star. But writing is what I do, so I will take a stab at it. Speaking of a stab, Ed and I broke up again on wednesday. And this time it seemed all too real. It was the same thorn that has been lodged in our communion since before the beginning; my relationships with certain other men. Ugh. I don’t even feel like writing about it because it makes me feel shitty. And I didn’t pilgrimage all the way to Athena Graceland this evening to plunge any deeper into my already aching heart than necessary. All I’ll say, is that whenever this topic rises to the surface, we hit a painful and severe gridlock… so our tactic has been to leave it alone. But unfortunately, leaving it alone has not made it go away, as I wish it would, so we could get on with our exquisite loving, without further interruption.

Tension started to build a few days ago. When the topic first surfaced this time, I held on to some of my feelings, because I wanted to avoid the lethal strain of disconnect that this topic tends to cause. But that didn’t work. He knew there was more that I was not saying, and he said he always wanted our relationship to be a place where I felt free to speak my heart. So I did. And up went the Great Wall. Add to this disturbed mix that he was planning to come visit me on wednesday. Even though I had cried my guts out, and we were both considering that our Relationship (with a capital R) was over, still I demanded he come. Because I missed him so much. And because I wanted to share a few sips of the nutrient-dense sacredness I have been imbibing for six weeks straight. (Currently it is “Spiritual Renewal Week”, and there are talks and other special events every day. Guests are here from other Ananda colonies, and the atmosphere is especially festive.)

He came. At nine am, he walked into my Ma’s room, holding a vase of exquisite, boldly colored flowers. Our embrace was electric and laden with deep, soulful relief. We shared a perfect day together. He came to the morning talk, and afternoon sadhana (spiritual practice= energization, asana, prayer, chanting and meditation) and a Q&A session with the leaders of the community, Jyotish and Devi. Our hearts were joyous and joined as one beaming light.

It wasn’t till nine thirty pm that we opened the inevitable can of poisonous worms. As we talked in the moon-soaked, cricket pulsing darkness, I prayed and prayed and prayed to Yogananda (the Guru of this path) to be with us. I prayed to God, to speak through me. I prayed to Love to look through my eyes. And still, he drove away into the pitch black with a calloused heart, and fairly certain that we were done. As he started Magic Mike’s (his truck’s name) engine, I softly sang him Ananda’s goodbye song. It goes, “Go with love, may joyful blessings speed you safely on your way. May God’s light expand within you, may we be One in that light someday.” I followed it with a requisite OM, and then walked into the house in a state of shock and denial.

God, I didn’t mean to tell this story so linearly. Because meanwhile, splice the screen of reality in two, and on the other side, see me becoming so deeply tenderized and spiritually receptive. Every day I have been here, I have risen early, as I do, and begun my leisurely, devoted sadhana by six thirty am, at the latest. And every day, I practice before an altar laden with the faces of the guru lineage of Ananda. I gaze into Yogananda’s omniscient, compassionate eyes, and he speaks to me. Every day. Here come the tears. Yogananda came into my life early. I was about six. Over the years, sometimes I have felt very close to him, and other times, I have been the rebellious teenager, who is determined to do life MY WAY. Without some goody-two-shoe spiritual dictator telling me how I “should be”.

But since I have been at the Momshram this time, I realize that I am ready for him to tell me how I “should be”. Because I’d rather take direction from one who has attained Mastery (with a capital M), landed back in the heart of Truth, and realized oneness with ALL, than rely on my fickle, erratic, impulsive, delusive, ever-fluctuating small self to guide my life. Why would I insist on wandering the desert alone and thirsting, when there is a loving avitar with an impeccable map, standing before me and extending his hand? Yes, that was a rhetorical question. There are endless reasons why I would resist. But the bottom line is that I am so tired of being lost and alone in maya and I want to go Home. I want to seek. I want to find. I want to share.

I could sob right now. But instead, I will take a deep breath and courageously keep on writing.

When I was on the phone with Ed the other day (before his visit), having one of our most painful conversations, in walks my Ma’s housemate Uddhava, and out of the blue, without regard to my being on the phone, he says, “If you decide to take discipleship, I’ll come to your ceremony.” Damn it! I can’t hide in God’s house! The pull has been growing inside me… slowly… over the past six weeks. But I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, because committing to a Guru and a specific path feels similarly weighty as committing to a monogamous Relationship. Not an impulse by in the check-out line of life. Plus, I didn’t want my Ma to get all worked up about it and “pester” me to join her cult.

Not that I think it’s a cult. And not that my Ma pesters me… but you get the idea.

So you see, my world is coming undone at such a fundamental level. Yesterday, on the phone with Ed, I cried a profuse stream of grief as I marveled at the immense, unrelenting hole in my heart. Oh yeah, you should know that Ed still wants to be my friend forever, even if we cannot go on as Lovers, as Partners. I guess that’s “nice”. But I have never loved anyone to the depths that I have loved with him. This is why it’s so hard to let go. I’m actually astounded at how deeply moved I am by him. As the tears flow, I realize this is how I cried when Dan died last spring. Tears of grief. I guess I am navigating another death. I don’t know if Ed and I will make it to the other side still hand in hand.

All I know, is that I am truly ready to offer my life to God. I am ready to focus. Work hard. Serve. Surrender. I really feel like a dissolved caterpillar in her cocoon. I am not what I have been. But my becoming is not complete. Imaging myself taking flight on wings that have not yet materialized makes my guts leap into my ________. Traversing the spiritual path takes so much f-ing faith. OMG.

I told Ed today that my heart has never felt so broken… To that he replied, “Maybe it’s not broken, but just stretching wider than it has ever stretched.” Spoken by the man who knows my heart better than anyone ever has.

It’s all good. So good. But it is NOT easy.

God, thank you for your infinite love and blessings. Let me rest in perfect faith tonight.

Om. Peace. Amen.

And What Of King Edward?

I bet you’re wondering how it’s going with my married boyfriend, King Edward. It felt so tenuous, packing up my life and heading to the Momshram to dissolve and then become a butterfly. I think that’s the true test of every Relationship- Is it spacious enough; clear and solid in its foundation, such that both parties have room to grow at their own pace, without appearing as a threat to the other or the whole.

I was afraid. Afraid to let go of what Ed and I had shared up until my departure ( and also relieved to let go of it). Afraid of losing him. Afraid of becoming too powerful. Afraid that if I tuned deeper into God, God would tell me to ditch him. And all of these fears were not so subtle by the time I arrived at Ananda. Like hooded cobra snakes, they slithered right up into my excessively serious face and bared their venomous fangs. Every day while I was in the training, I felt myself stretching, shedding, becoming… And every day, I would call Ed and share. Some days, the sharing was expansive and harmonious. Some days, the sharing created distance and dissonance.

With Ed, I *know* I am in trouble when a grave silence falls upon the line. It didn’t take me long at all to learn that. Silence means that I have tripped a land mine inside him, and he’s in the implosion process. But he’s not ready to talk about it yet. He has to take some space and sort himself out… and return to me after some time, to share his murky depths.

But it’s kinda beautiful, right? That I’ve come to know (AND ACCEPT) him well enough to recognize and make peace with his process. Believe me, it takes immense patience to navigate these realms. But when “they” said “patience is a virtue”, “they” were *not* just blowing smoke out of their booty holes. And if you ask me, true wealth is found in the coin of virtues. I want to be RICH!!! And I AM, by now. Thanks to Ed, and all the practice he gives me!!!!

I think it’s a very key point that I just stumbled on, when I told you that I was afraid that as I became more intimate with God, God would tell me that I should leave Ed. My soul yearns to live fully surrendered to God, that I may be a willing and humble channel for the Light. And too, I yearn to join my life with Ed’s, because our hearts are already joined. But given that he’s already married and still has a fifteen year old prince living at home, it just seems way too complicated some days.

But every time we hit a bump in the road, we both kept showing up. Though I am embarrassed to tell you how many times I went to class with a mangled, bleeding heart… Some might say too many. I say, it is ALL God’s will. And plus, as soon as I shifted my focus to learning, and relaxed into the presence of my classmates- twenty of the most open, loving, kind, supportive, luminous human beings on the planet (!!!!!), plus a slew of brilliant, devoted teachers, the seething wound in my heart would seal up and I would receive a miraculous transfusion of peace and freshly oxygenated surrender. Then later, I’d return to Ed with renewed patience, compassion and commitment to being my best and receiving his best. (And ask me how many times he would astound me by showing up with a rendition of his BEST that was unprecedented and managed to bring me to my humbled and well-lubricated knees!)

I don’t want to get lost in the details of our stumbles through the jungles of intimacy… but I will share that I had a potent victory around surrender. You know those moments with your partner where you disagree on something that *seems* fundamental, and you find yourself in a heated and unpleasant game of offense/defense… and in order to move forward, ONE of you must back down, soften, compromise, let go of the need to be right…. (INSERT ominous music and SCREAM HERE) God… when we rouse each other’s edges in this realm, it can feel so scary. Like I might lose myself, my freedom. Like I might DIE.

A couple of weeks ago, we were *blessed* with one of these situations. Because we have been through it enough times now, and I know how much it blows to butt heads, I decided to *play* a new game… JUST THIS ONCE. I handed Ed the reigns; let him have total control in a realm where in the past, he has felt powerless. I’ll tell you WHAT- It was the smartest thing I ever did. As soon as I let go, he felt heard, honored, respected, considered. And HE let go too. At once the battleground became strewn with flower petals, beneficent sunlight stabbed through the clouds, and the music turned to gushing string quartets. I recommend being the first one to let go. Rather than incurring death (except of that which is unreal in the first place), it vivifies and brightens life and love. At least it has the potential to do this, when offered with pure and loving intent.

So now, five weeks and two days after kissing goodbye, I will testify that Ed and I are more in love than EVER before. I am so pleased to say and feel and know that rather than eroding our connection, my surrender to this calling to greater heights of my Self has brought us deeper, and higher; into new realms of trust, intimacy and partnership.

Ed is everything I could ask for in a partner. I started to list all the qualities I love about him just now… But I got shy and deleted them. Because I realized that I could gush on forever, and it sounded like propaganda. Plus, all these things mean so much to ME… but to YOU, the reader… you might just roll your eyes, or fall asleep all together. So suffice to say, he is the one I choose. I feel met on every level, beyond my wildest dreams (Which is not to say that we don’t struggle. Obviously we DO. It’s how we both choose to SHOW UP in the struggles). We can communicate without saying a word, and he feels every little micro movement of my heart and soul. I will stand by him pure devotion as he slowly, lovingly frees himself from his glorious, karmic tangle. And I will do it JOYFULLY.

Amen.

Living In My New Skin

Have you ever gone through a deeply transformational experience, only to get spit out on the other side and find that you are just the same as you’ve always been? That’s how I feel on this first morning, post Ananda yoga teacher training. I now hover upon the page… wondering how to begin to put my experience into words… wondering if and how I have changed, grown, purified. And this wondering feels so familiar… it’s the very same wonderer who has always greeted this open, glowing space, and always will. Perhaps because I AM the open, glowing space.

But I shall remind myself now, as I oft must, that there is a time and place for spiraling philosophicality… and now is not it. Trying to say the most perfect thing is giving me the symptoms of writer’s block. And I’m here to WRITE, not feel stuck and frustrated because I’m not perfect. So instead of finding the absolute RIGHT thing to say, I’ll just pretend I’m writing a letter to my grandma, sharing some broad brush strokes of my recent life experience.

Or maybe I’ll tell you about how mesmerizing it is to watch the three tiered fountain spill slowly into itself. The water moves slow, as though it is drooling. Perhaps I’ll tell you that the air is thick with smoke because a distant forest is currently being engulfed in flames… and sitting outside is giving me a headache and I feel like I might be doing harm to myself by sitting at this picnic bench, groping about inside myself for the ultimate meaning du jour… but I went inside the market and the ambiance felt wrong. So I came back out to my perch in the poisonous morning.

Ahem. Dear Grandma Grace, yesterday I completed a month long yoga teacher training program at the Momshram. Although I have been studying yoga for thirteen years now (plus God knows how many prior lifetimes), including a regular daily practice for much of that time, two immersions, three prior teacher trainings, plus occasional workshops and retreats, this is the first time in my life that I feel certain that I want to and am ready to teach! I didn’t know when I set out on this most recent leg of my journey that this clarity and deeply rooted conviction would be the outcome. Not even close. All I knew was that the life I was inhabiting was rejecting me like the body rejects a splinter. Nothing felt right from the inside… though from the outside it “seemed” good enough. Like a snake shedding her skin, my once beautiful, nourishing life became inexplicably dry and lifeless…yet it concealed the vivid, tender, unborn life, still taking shape beneath the surface.

Am I in my new skin yet? I must be. But I have not yet come to recognize myself within these new sleek patterns of sacred expression… and this is why I am perching in puzzlement, upon the picnic bench wondering what I have to say for myself on this thick, smoke-strewn morning.

Oh, but Grandma Grace, please rap my elegant knuckles with your antique ruler, because I have begun to levitate again, and I must be brought back down to the rudimentary telling of this most recent chapter of my endless becoming.

Ananda yoga is different than any other asana practice I have ever encountered. It has facilitated a deep experience of my innermost self. All of the other yoga classes I’ve attended in my thirteen years of exploration have moved unceasingly from one pose to the next… until finally we arrive in savasana, the corpse pose, where we lay for five or ten minutes, before sitting up, joining our voices in the sonic resonance of OM, rolling up our mats, and forging back out into the urban storm.

Ananda yoga is about internalizing awareness; cultivating energy in the body, and then drawing it up the spine, to the point between the eyebrows, which is said to be the seat of superconsciousness. The place where one’s consciousness is merged with All That Is. And if that’s too woo-woo for you, this point is also the prefrontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for producing the experience of happiness, peace, calmness, and other such savory textures of human beingness. In Ananda yoga, rather than moving from one sacred shape to the next, like a fluttering flip book, we do a pose and then return to a neutral stance, close our eyes, absorb and EXPERIENCE the energy that has been aroused within. We draw the energy IN and UP. Letting it become fuel for higher awareness.

No wonder I never felt moved to teach before now. For better and for worse, I am not one of those people who can make myself DO things just for the sake of doing. I can only access self-discipline when compelled from the depths of my soul. I was never compelled from the depths of my soul to teach a spiritually persuaded exercise class. Shrug. Not enough gravitational pull. To guide people to the profound, powerful truth that abides within the silent center of each of us… Now THAT’S something I can get behind!!!

I am amazed at how simple this yoga is, Grandma Grace! And yet how deep it brings me, when I offer myself fully to the process. I find myself wondering why it is not more widely practiced. I mean, doesn’t EVERYONE want to cultivate their inner garden of peace and unconditional, ever-new joy? I would assert that we DO… but most of us are going about it all wrong. We are incessantly grasping and striving for external circumstances to bring us peace and fulfillment… and unnecessarily suffering for this. We co-create a matrix of unnecessary complexity as we dream up new, bigger, better schemes which we unconsciously hope will finally deliver the contentment we seek.

A couple days before the training began, I went to the Yuba River with two of my best girlfriends. I remember telling them that I desired simplicity in my life… for the first time EVER. Up until recently, I thought simplicity equated to boredom. But something has blossomed within me. I no longer require the intense stimulation I once did, in order to know that I am alive. I can feel so much fulfillment, listening to the fountain’s gentle, gay, splash song; take delight in the sensuous language of wind upon my skin. I am called to reverent stillness, beholding the majesty of trees.

I am pretty sure this return to my Self is a result of regular meditation practice. Simply remembering how to inhabit my silent center. This is the aim of Ananda yoga (of which meditation is an essential component!). Yoga is not just a set of glorified shapes to twist your body into. It is a science. A tried and true method that will lead every sincere and devoted seeker to the experience of Self as Totality.

Wow, that letter to grandma trick sure got me on track! Mere moments ago, I was almost convinced I had writer’s block… And now I am a passionate font of spiritual revelation!!! I could gush for another millennia about this intelligently crafted system of Self-mastery. But the practice speaks for itself. And this is why I am delighted to serve as an ambassador of these ancient teachings.

Wow, I just proofread this, and it seemed to piss on the slippers of other systems of hatha yoga. Which was NOT my intention. I appreciate all of the teachers and practices that have been stepping stones on my path. Essentially, I am saying that it just makes sense to pause and go inside between poses to feel the power I am awakening, and channel it intentionally to raise my consciousness. And it makes sense to let the asana practice be an access point to deep meditation. And this potent and simple practice is something I am madly jazzed to share!!

OM. Peace. Amen.

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