Whose Dharma is it, Anyway?

I am one self united with my creator.  Salvation comes with from my one self.

Once upon a time I traversed the streets of Paris.  I really did.  And a girl’s gotta wonder…  How do all those boulangeries stay in business?  I swear there are more boulangeries in Paris than there are stars in the sky, or atoms in your body.  But I am remembering one in particular.  It was nothing special… it just happened to be en route between my studio apartment to the nearest metro stop.  Don’t misinterpret… “nothing special” does not mean that I did not stop at nearly every crystal clean window to gaze upon the prim and proper little buttery masterpieces… I did.  I stopped to soul salivate at at least forty four percent of boulangerie windows.  I was tickled and spellbound by the vast diversity of combinations of refined flour, sugar and butter that were possible, and their supernatural seductive powers never ceased to cause me to involuntarily brake.  But this particular shop shone beyond the rest because of the maiden who held court behind the counter.  Was she ordinary?  I don’t know.  But she was perfect.  Perfect like a Parisian Barbie doll, except made of real flesh instead of the usual plastic.  The first time I saw her, I was captivated.  I stood outside, peering through the pristine window, watching her ambivalently serve from behind the veneer of an evocative, poised self.

Tall, slender and curvaceous, her thick black hair was piled neatly sexy in a perfect French twist.  I was perplexed by her choice of outfits.  She looked like she was a high profile secretary, way too fancy to be slinging greasy treats on the streets of Paris.  She wore a low cut, snug fitting cotton shirt, a solid colored, curve hugging skirt and stalkings.  Her cleavage full, reminiscent of perfectly ripe fruit, youth, a wellspring of feminity and sex.  A string of large, languidly luminous pearls hugged her warm olive, swanish neck.  Her make-up was relatively heavy… Especially her eyes which on their own were large, dark and heavy with hidden meaning.  She accentuated them in the way of feline stealth, with a thick black line running along the upper lid and lashes so weighted with mascara that it was a wonder she could keep her eyes open.  Perhaps they rested at half mast…  I stood absorbing her wondrous existence for a double scoop of infinite minutes.  I wanted to touch the pulse of her humanness.  I wanted to know the unique music of her soul, but she kept it so hidden beneath her façade of deliberate, explicit beauty.  I perceived barely a trace of her inner world.  She worked with an air of seriousness and regal sophistication.  Most days, she was there, and most days, my feet involuntarily stopped their feverish traversal of the novelty of Parisian streets to pay homage to this delicious, stoic anomaly of a woman.

This was about five years ago.  But she lives inside me, timelessly.  Strange, the things that leave impressions.  I wish I could BE her.  Not literally, of course.  I could never be as cool, expressionless, tidy.  I wish I dressed to kill for my plain-assed life.  I wish I took my normalcy to the outer limits.  Ordinary people.  We are all such ordinary people on some level… you know what I mean?  Even though we are extraordinary… there is something so ordinary about the human experience.  We all wake up in the morning and must live the day, thrust ever forward by the space time continuum.  We all thirst for love and acceptance.  I could go on and on, listing the ways that we are the same, but why?  Just feel it.  Feel the core of your own humanity, right now, and it will save me a few frivolous strings of words.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, “Better to do your dharma poorly than someone else’s well.”  So obviously I can’t be her.  I woke up with especially heavy questions about my path this morning, and this enigmatic boulangerista rose to the surface of my relentlessly musing mind.  Why?  Because I want to take as much meticulous care as she did as I claim my seat in the world.  No matter WHO I am, WHAT my dharma is, I want to set my table beautifully, intentionally, every day.  Sometimes I fantasize about catching the midnight flight to Paris, buying a fancy string of fat pearls and landing a job in a boulangerie… but… I’m not her.  I wonder though… Whose dharma was she performing so extraordinarily, hers?  Or someone elses?  And if I did run away to Paris with my aforementioned string of pearls, would that be HER dharma, or mine?

Krishna?  Why did you so generously shower Arjuna with Divine council, and leave me here all alone in the windowed corner of Gaylord’s café to restlessly stew in lonesome musings?  Today I woke up drowning in the color blue… but somehow I got myself to the meditation cushion… hopeful that Grace would somehow conk me over the head with blissful silence… But alas, twenty something minutes of my ego-bound life spilled through time’s treacherous cracks in a flurry of roaring chaotic chatter, emotional strife and a generous pinch of despair.  Krishna?  Can you please speak up???  Jesus?  Could you please help a sistah out? (Out of dillusion, that is…)  Paramahansa Yogananda?  Would you toss a starving heart a blessed bone?  I’d really appreciate it.  When will I learn to be quiet enough to hear?  In A Course in Miracles recently, they said that spiritual realization is not something to casually attain…only to throw aside for the next achievement or acquisition… If we are relating to it as just another fresh assed, groovy thing to have, like a new Ipad (she said with a scornfully crinkled nose…) than forget about it.  If that’s the case, better just stick with the Ipad.  Awakening is not a frivolous endevor.  It is not just another casual possession to acquire and leave on the shelf to collect dust.  That is what harmoniums and typewriters and sewing machines are for!!!  I had a good laugh when that last thought lit down in my mind.   I wanted a harmonium SO BAD.  Now I have had one for almost a year and have played it all of three times.  I have had a dream of taking an old fashioned typewriter out into the world and being a poetic muse for the masses for YEARS, literally… Recently, one finally landed in my possession, and now I am terrified to take action and embrace that dream… Mykael just bought a sewing machine at a garage sale for fifteen bucks.  Of course I would love to learn to sew, but I can’t even pretend that I will, until I muster the courage to exercise my other two dream machines.   Once I DO, maybe THEN Krishna and Jesus, Yogananda and God will bother to speak up, flood my mind with revelatory light…

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There’s God In Them Thar Hills!!!!

Well, God would have it this morning that I sat myself next to a man from Nigeria, who was chosen at the ripe old age of five to be a catholic priest.  You see, I told him my name was Athena.  He exclaimed, “The goddess!”

I said, “Yup, wisdom and war, baby… though people conveniently leave out the war part on a very regular basis.”  They do.  Whenever I tell people my name, the popular response is, “The goddess of wisdom!”

…Yeah, the goddess of wisdom who happens to be carrying a massive shield and sporting a high-fashion warrioress’s helmet… I guess war as we know it is a pretty frightening subject.  Better to just pretend it doesn’t exist, eh?  But then there’s the quintessence of all wars~ the war we fight inside ourselves every day.  The war that the ancient Indian sacred text, the Bhagavad Gita metaphorically addresses.  This is the war between the ego and… “The Great Love”, I’ll call it.  Yikes.  Talking about “religious matters” is a slippery slope, isn’t it?  Well, suffice to say, that I like to think that Athena’s stand for imbuing war with wisdom is a courageous stand for the highest, especially in the Holy battle fields that stretch across the interiors of every human heart.  At least that’s what THIS Athena stands for.  I am committed to cultivating my wisdom and intelligence and using it as a trusty ally in winning the only battle worth fighting.  The fight for peace in my heart, in my mind, here and NOW.

But, the crafty philosopher asks, does it HAVE to be a fight?  Fighting is the antithesis of peace, ain’t it?  After all, war begets war…  Maybe, oh Crafty One… but for now, all this devoted warrioress can do is fight this relentlessly chattering, fearful ego machine.  My bullets are made of condensed conviction, perseverance.  My gun powder is feverish devotion to a vision of something that I can not see with my eyes, but damn it, I know it exists.  I know that there is a world within me that is unbounded divine light, and that it is possible to live life unified with this great light.  And this silly, frivolous mind that never shuts up and ceaselessly dangles those wicked carrots all up in my sheee-it… You know, the carrots who seduce gullible little me with visions of a future wrought with every shade of wealth, happiness and peace (meanwhile, my heart is tight and trembling)… those carrots that that are designed with state of the art, aerodynamic elusivity…

How many times must I tell myself that this is it?!!??!  This is the only moment where happiness and peace are truly at my disposal.  Is this good news, or bad news?  You decide.

Anyway, a few days ago, I had this epiphany that I would start a research project in which I will visit a different church every Sunday, and blog about my experience.  TIME THE FUCK OUT!!!  The Nigerian would-be priest just strode up to my table with a handful of large, wet, glistening CARROTS.  I am SO FUCKING SERIOUS.  Really.  I swear.  He offered me one.  I said no thanks.  I said, “Listen, Your Piousness, you take your seductive, crunchy-assed carrots and shove them where the sun don’t shine!!!”  No, of course I didn’t say that.  I considered taking one, but I didn’t feel like starting my digestion at ten forty three am, so I politely declined, and very jubilantly exclaimed to him that I was writing about carrots as we spoke.  This is the man who was just preaching to me about how he didn’t trust faith as far as he could throw a whale-sized carrot.

God, you are SO, SO, SO brilliant!  Thank you for the comic relief… I was getting pretty heady this morning… Time in.  So I’m excited to explore religion, because I throw the word GOD around with such devotion and gaiety, in the face of a world that is AT WAR AS I TYPE THIS, in the name of GOD.  I forget that sometimes.  In my little microcosmic, insulated slice of forgetful heaven, “my God is an awesome God”, (as the beloved David Lurey would rapturously sing on occasion).  Suddenly I am insatiably curious about what “the masses” are being spoon-fed in all the holy edifices of the bay area… and maybe eventually the country, and the world!!!

I proudly disclosed my blue printed plans for this project to my Nigerian friend nesting at the table next to me… and little did I know that HE had a story.  Back in Nigeria, he was sent away to catholic schools from a very early age, so that he could be groomed for the rigorous vocation of Catholic Priest.  Good for him, right?  Wrong.  At age fourteen or fifteen, suddenly the raging river of testosterone knocked him on his ass and he became consumed with lust and curiosity about all things pussy.  Woops, I mean, “girls”.  Let’s not be lewd here, Athena.  Well this was BAD NEWS according to Father So-And-So.  My friend was sent to perform “penance”.  He informed me that the “English translation” for penance is more equivalent to “torture”.  He was sent away to a cloistered “retreat” (more like a “prison”) where he was fed bread and water once a day, slept on a cement slab and commanded to pray for hours on end to be purified of this “demon” called Lust.  After months of that, he was permitted return to school.  Foolish man, he confessed that penance had in fact not helped the situation, but actually exacerbated it.  (No, I don’t really consider this man foolish, I just wrote it for dramatics.  Actually, I perceive him to be highly courageous… to stand in his truth in the face of EVERYTHING on the outside negating his experience.  That takes some serious balls if you ask me.)

He stayed in this caustic, soul contaminating environment clear up until he was twenty two years old!!!  Don’t you think that’s a long assed time to be hanging out in a place that insists you are broken and possessed for wanting to explore your sexuality and speak your truth?  I do.  And when he left, he straight up FLED.  And he said that the “Holy Men” had pumped him all fulla this fear that he was bound to be struck by bolts of lightening hurled by an angry god at any moment.  Wow.  He said since then, he has been a seeker.  Since then, he has been asking a steady stream of questions.  They sure tied him in some tight knots.  No wonder he don’t dig no faith.  To him, faith means believing stupid shit like the Immaculate Conception without question, investigation or the entirely natural shadows cast by healthy doubt.  Then we had a laugh, because he flipped over the splayed open book on his table and showed me the title, “The Portable Athiest”.

So this is the world “outside” that I have to contend with, EH?  Good to know.  Humanity?  Are you listening?  Take my hand… We’re gonna go on a journey!  We’re gonna go on an adventure!  We’re gonna skip and frolic through the plethora of churches in this contemporary and diverse world… and hopefully, be able to sip the delish nectar of Love that quivers like a tremulous wishing well at the center of all of them.  It’s like panning for gold.  Sure, it’s an arduous process, picking out all the rocks, gravel, calcified beliefs and unwieldy clumps of control mechanisms… But then you have ga-ga-ga-GOLD!  Ga-ga-ga-GOD!!!!  La-la-la-LOVE!  A kind of Love that One really has no choice but to brake for, because it is so magnificent, healing, inclusive!  That’s what the miners really meant when they exclaimed, “There’s GOLD in them thar hills!!!”  They meant there’s god in them thar mountains of human confusion, war and pain… trust me…

Oh, and did you know there’s a Guru living in my back yard?!