Awaiting God’s Instruction

Where did my smile fly to?  Have any of you seen it?  I imagine it sprouted wings and simply lifted off my face in a single moment of inexplicable, intoxicated joy.  You know how smiles can be… they sure have a mind of their own and tend to do as they please.  Gosh, I can just hear some of you saying, “Oh, Athena Grace, just fake it till you make it.”  Smiles beget smiles.  (Even Anthony Robbins says to always smile upon answering the phone, because the person on the other end can feel it, and it is a highly inviting way to open the space of communication.)  There.  I’m doing it.  I’m smiling.  Yeah, it feels pretty decent.  Try it.  Crack a smile.  But I guess it’s more than just a smile I’m groping for…

Everyone has been telling me that this island, though She is bona fide paradise, she MEANS BUSINESS.  When one lands here, it is in the name of heavy-handed healing, cleansing and purification.  Everyone says so.  Everyone who’s not just on a piddley vacation, that is.  If you find yourself on this island, it is to partake in some massive furniture heaving, wall demolishing and spring-summer-winter-fall cleaning.  Shrug.  When they told me that, I thought, “Big deal…That’s pretty much my favorite past time, anyway…”  But I’m coming to feel that this sensuously charged chunk of volcanic aftermath hugged on all sides by a warm, wild ocean, don’t mess around.

I am standing on a precipice of a new world.  I am naked, freshly hatched and tender.  Yet also I am strong and fierce and seasoned.  All this to say, that the honeymoon phase of drunk wonder might be over already.  That was sure a warp speed tropical honeymoon, eh?  But I am not here to make romance with conceptual, cardboard notions of Life and Purpose and Spirit.  I am here to plant my feet firmly into the living Earth and pull Her infinite strength into my heavenly body, invite the Sky to flood me with infinite wisdom and peace.  I am here to draw into my luminous core where rests every blessing that has ever been bestowed upon me and shoot it back out into this vast dancing pool of illusory division in the name of the One.

Maybe… Or should I just be a sport and gobble up my oozing, steamy slice of humble pie and admit that I do not indeed know what All Pervading Switchboard Operator has in store for me?  I find myself once again cooking in the internal agitation of my beloved, eternal inquiry~ finding the appropriate balance of effort and grace.  How much do I work and sweat and manipulate the flow in the direction of my will… and how much do I rest into the passive space of listening; wait for the universe to twirl me, dip me, toss me just east of gently about this rugged human dance floor?

How do I want to invent myself at the warm lotus feet of this fresh baked beginning?  In a way, it seems time sensitive, like if I don’t hit the ground running, I might realize that the ground was in fact an ocean and I am already in mid-sink.  This is my fear.  And yet I know that there is no sense in “running” out of fear… fear of sinking.  In truth, I am Every Buoyant in God’s Ocean.  But still… being human requires action.  It just does.

So here’s my plan~ I’m gonna eat tons of cookies and then reevaluate.  Just kidding.  I said that because I am sitting outside the Kilauea Bakery as I write and everyone around me is nursing yummy drinks and sweet carbohydrates and right about now that sure seems a lot easier than being in the bearable, gnawing discomfort of this wondering.  Ten chocolate chip cookies, a double shot latte and a frontal lobotomy oughta do it.

Okay, so now for my *REAL* plan~ I decided to give myself a week… which means until next Sunday, September 19th… to pray and flow and listen.  God, please guide me this week.  Send me signs and angels and synchronicities on High.  I root myself firmly in the present.  I stand willing and receptive to your loving, auspicious direction.  How can I serve?  What would You have me do?  What would You have me say?  Where would You have me go?

And then… come Sunday night, I will check back in and see what has unfolded, who I have met, what doors have opened, what dreams have beckoned.  As I was writing that, the cockatoo who hangs out in the courtyard here just broke out in maniacal peals of mock laughter.  Freaky.  Almost as freaky as the musty cigarette scented, laughing, wind-up clown that my grandma sent me for Christmas one year, whom I exiled immediately to the top shelf of my closet, but once in a while felt inexplicably compelled to pull his string and listen, trembling as he expressed his soulless, mechanical self.

I digress.  Something else you should know about this island, is that time is like one of those slippery, liquid filled balloons sold in toy stores that inevitably leap from your grip.  Time twists and dips and folds in upon its self in playful, infinite loops.  Back in Oakland, I was pretty proficient at pitching time like a docile, flaccid tent, the stakes fashioned from the structures of my choosing.  Oakland time rolled over for me, belly up, like a submissive family dog.  But Kauai time… might be more like an electric eel with a tiger’s head.  Taming it might be more of a valiant, heroic trial.  All this FLOW.  It is exponential femininity here.  Windy, oceanic storms.  A taunting, soft deluge of esoteric mating calls steadily drifting from Heaven’s lips.

Something else you should know about this island is that it is perfectly acceptable to hitchhike (and leave doors unlocked)… which is clearly indicative that I am in a whole other world.  Not only is hitchhiking a mode of transportation, it is also a living, breathing oracle.  God sends the perfect angels down the main highway at just the perfect time to give and receive the precise messages, connections and blessings that are required in order to fulfill on the prescribed Destiny assigned to us who have heeded the deep, resounding island call.

Yesterday evening, I thumbed a ride to Hanalei.  A radiant crone-goddess pulled over and invited me into her chariot.  She exuded a soul perfume of deep peace and beauty.  Immediately the bracelet on her arm grabbed my attention.  Three metals, woven together~ gold, copper and silver, it was the very bracelet worn by many at my mom’s ashram.  I asked her about it.  She said she used to be very involved at Ananda before she moved here three years ago… She said that the bracelets are worn by most Kriyabans (people initiated into the techniques of kriya yoga… a form of meditation designed to accelerate the process of shedding karma in order to attain self realization).  I felt so at home being with her, because I felt Yogananda in the car with us too, and right about now, that is a REALLY GOOD THING.  In this time of vulnerable, fledgling openness, inward turning and impending creation, there is nobody I’d rather ride in the car with… (except maybe Jesus, Krishna, Amma, Hafiz, Rumi, Saint Francis and Saint Theresa…)  When I got out of her car, she gave me her card and told me she was available if I needed her, since we are family.  Blessed BE!

And now I release myself once again to the Omniscient Ocean… and wait.

Amen.

Tenderizing Questions

I could talk about how today is my last day in my house here in beautiful, staticy Oakland, California. Or I could talk about how I sorta feel like projectile vomiting due to the stress of my impending move and resulting insomnia… I could talk about David Bowie currently shouting about rebels right in my ear (They have the music at an ungodly deciple here at Pizzaiolo. I’m having a mint tea and one last hurrah!) But nah… that’s kinda boring. I’d rather talk about profound stuff, because even though the surface of my awareness is full of agitated ripples and shimmers, the depths are all dark smiles and unspeakable richness. I have a lot on my mind. I hope I don’t make a pukey mess as I attempt to spit it out for you. But if I do… such is Life. I think one of the ancient secrets to happiness is to embrace the inevitability of pukey messes… and then roll up your sleeves and keep on loving right through them. Speaking of rolling up my sleeves, I just need to lament something for a moment. I’m gonna miss my muscles. (God, that made me crack up… mostly because it is entirely true. And very freeing to admit. Rock climbing. I’m not so sure they do that kind of thing in Kauai. I googled it and didn’t find much. Plus, Mykael has been my teacher and belay partner (thank you Mykael!!!)… Sigh. I have LOVED LOVED LOVED my year and a half long love affair with climbing. I love how I have transformed my relationship with anger, power and self-imposed limitations through climbing. I love the strength I have cultivated. I LOVE my climbing MUSCLES. Honestly, I was strong enough before… but it’s like the difference between the inconspicuous hottie, Clark Kent and his incognito superhero status, SUPERMAN. Oh well, non attachment. Someday, perhaps, I’ll be all withered and wrinkled, anyway. And then I’ll be generic, homogenous cosmic dust (My BODY, I mean… not my omnipotent, omnipresent me-ness). And who knows… maybe surfer girl/distance ocean swimmer muscles will be just as exquisite and impressive… But I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank my muscles for being so strong and beautiful. I bow to you, beloved muscles.) Woops, I had no idea that was gonna come out. I wanted to tell you all these other things… Like this quote that I heard from my beloved minister, Reverend Elouise last Sunday. She said, “Learn to ride the horse in the direction that it’s going.” Mostly, I find this quote to be wholly brilliant… except that Athena Grace LMNOP don’t ride no stinkin’ horses. This bitch rides unicorns or bust. And clearly my pristine, mythic steed is bound for tropical paradise. I am so proud of myself for not trying to hold on to the pasty banks of the river until my fingers bled and popped off. It could be tempting. (“My mama said to get things done, you’d better not mess with major tom”… Thanks David…) I have talked about this before… about my long standing affair with the inquiry of effort versus grace, remember? Like how much force do I exert as I lean in and engage with my life, and how much do I just lay back in passive bliss and let the holy waters otherwise known as Life, sweep me along? You’ve gotta understand~ this has been a pesky, continuous thorn lodged in my mind for ages. But has it been a thorn, or merely a rigorous course of study? I vote for the latter. I’d say it’s been one of my most recent theses in the School of Mostly Soft Knocks. And this most recent confluence of events has been a culmination, a graduation of sorts. I am more engaged than ever in my life. Every day I wake up and live an authentic and satisfying life of my choosing. And as the framework of this life has crumbled and fallen, I truly feel that I have hopped bareback upon my horned beast and let it gallop into the vibrant, dawning wash of my destiny. It is effort… but it is also Grace. See for yourself what a prolific writer I have been and continue to be. Writing. It’s as much effort as it is grace. Same with spiritual practice, healing and self inquiry. And cooking, exercise, nurturing friendships… I feel so blessed to be here, living this life. As I declare that, though, the question surfaces, “I could be doing MORE to serve Humanity, couldn’t I?” I guess this is a newer incarnation of the question. How do I live my life so that I am serving and elevating You and You and You and You and You and you get it… That’s a slippery question with so many expressive, diverse faces. On one extreme, it could be argued that I’ve gotta be the third coming of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Joan of Arc… but on the other side of the spectrum, You could say that it doesn’t matter what I DO out in the world so much as it matters the degree of peace in my heart. I believe they are BOTH true. I believe in the whole and completeness of myself as I am IN THIS MOMENT. And still… I know that this is a course that I am currently enrolled in, in the School of Mostly Soft Knocks, and because of this, the answer will roll and tumble, smooth and solidify as I continue to live and breathe and widen myself in the Yearning for Ultimacy. My dear Maha Devi (Great Goddess), friend and confidant, RosyMoon came over to partake in the Last Supper with me yesterday at noon. She shared about a question asked of her by her Teacher (with a capital T) some time ago. Since then, she has been grappling with it inside herself and as a result, stirring up much illumination and dormant wisdom. The question was something along the lines of, “Why do you commit to your yoga practice? What has you step in, day after day?” She said her first response was, “because it makes me feel good…” Which she realized was kinda weak, come to think of it, and hence she took her figurative pick-axe to her interior and began to hack away at the dense walls of her unconscious, in search of the latent oceans of gems hidden within. I believe that a life well lived requires asking the right questions. And then not just merely scurrying for the quickest, microwavable, drive-thru answer, as our pill popping, speed freaky, popular culture has conditioned us to do… but actually being willing and available to be tenderized by the question. Sit in it and mar-i-nate. Stew. Like Rumi’s precious little chickpea. What questions are YOU living in these days? What questions would you like to inhabit for an arduous, devotional joy ride? Please! Leave a comment and share with the class! Amen.

Effort, Grace and a Quarter in the Artichoke

The marriage of effort and grace. Hands folded in prayer at the heart center. Right hand, effort, left hand, grace. When they meet in the space of the heart and ignite, these two forces joined make anything possible. I believe this. But the inquiry that I have personally grappled with, stumbled clumsily inside of for at least ten years is WHAT IS THE APPROPRIATE RATIO OF EFFORT TO GRACE? Of course I don’t think there’s a neat, squeaking answer… no way, Jose. But LISTEN~ these days there is so much hype about the law of attraction and how we create our reality with our thoughts. I can’t deny this… We are also a culture founded on good, honest protestant work ethic. Everybody knows that if you want to be “successful”, it takes a pinch of brains and a scoop of guts and a whole ocean of elbow grease. I mean maybe if you are a crunchy, new age, bay area native you’ll beg to differ with this… but for the most part we have been brainwashed into thinking that success belongs to those with the greasiest elbows. That is the EFFORT half of the equation.

And then there is Grace. What is grace? Let’s ask the omniscient One, dictionary dot com… Oh fuck. The omniscient One suggests that there are twenty separate definitions. Screw that! Lemme sort through them and find one or two that best support the essence I am driving to reveal. What?!?!?$*^#@*% This is ridiculous! None of them come very close to expressing what I was hoping they would. The closest definition is “favor or good will”. But I have come to understand grace as the special flavor of favor or good will of our special Friend, All Pervading Light. I like to imagine that just as sea creatures are immersed in salty water, we are immersed in an inherently generous substance that could be construed as Love. Another name for this all pervading substance of consciousness is Grace. The cool thing about Grace, is that it is an unconditional force. It asks nothing of us, yet gives us our very lives and all of the sub-blessings therein. (whether we recognize these blessings is another story, isn’t it?) Why does It do this? Simply because that’s what it does.

Mykael is sitting across the table from me today. I decided to come to HIS café for once. I used to come to “his” café more often, but then I started to feel sick of him and so we each went to our own separate cafes, which is so healthy… but this morning, he took a huge FIVE HOUR exam and I am so proud of him for stepping in and simply giving his best without attachment (just like Krishna advises Arjuna to do), so I came to HIS café, where they DO NOT know how to make espresso drinks! Ewww, even thinking about the soy latte I just drank makes me want to barf. And even worse, but in a different way are the mochas. That’s what Mykael gets. They are thick and sludgy, like chocolate swamps. You can’t even drink the end of it, because it is mealy, chocolate puke. And now, on the other side of the table he is carving away at this fat chunk of stone and the whole table is violently shaking and I am trying to sound so deep and smart and the table lurches, making it impossible for me to gather these tightly coiled, esoteric thoughts. Sheesh and a half.

Effort and grace. Well, I suppose if you’re someone simple, who has clear, worldly ambitions, it is very obvious. You set a goal, take steps toward it and simultaneously allow grace to weave like sweet breeze, threading its way inbetween your actions. You know, those “coincidences”… being in the right place at the right time, meeting someone who can hook a sistah (or a brothah) up, stumbling upon a book or some thing that magically furthers your efforts. Simple. Effort plus grace equals a life well lived. Right? But what if you are someone like me, who thinks way too much, picks her bones dry because nothing can satisfy this insatiable mind besides the Ultimate Truth? Every day I wonder what in this world is truly WORTH fighting for, sweating for, standing for… It’s kinda nice to be sharing a table with a mirror named Mykael. Here I am steeping in yearning. Yearning to get to the bottom of it all, yearning to be the Holiest me, yearning to See… and I gaze off into the wastelands between nowhere and somewhere, heavy with hope of finding something deeply true. Mykael finds my inwardly scrupulous eyes and mouths, “are you okay?”… And that’s when I realize that this wondering makes me feel sorta sad.

I’m sad because I wish I let life be so simple. I wish I could set my mind to something and then do your basic steamy tango with effort and grace until allofa sudden, SHA-ZAAM! There I am, intention fulfilled! But alas, I don’t trust my lopsided ego desires as far as they could throw me (and boy, can they throw me!). Those are the desires I could spend lifetimes ensnared in, toiling to bushwack my way to imagined happiness… only to feel weary and just as alone and afraid as I ever was. No, folks, the ONLY desire that means anything to me is the desire to find the light inside me and to hear the “still, small voice” (of APL) and be Its sacred bitch. I want to die to myself and be born solely as a messenger of the Highest. Hmmm, I guess that is as good a goal as any. I make effort. I receive grace.

Mykael asked me again if I am okay. I wonder what my face looks like!? My eyes do sting with tears now. WHY? Because waiting for the Ultimate Grace, the Grace that is Awakening, Self Realization takes SO MUCH PATIENCE!!!! So much patience. And there is evermore for me to Forgive. And in the meantime, this other life, this external, demanding survival game keeps happening. And I feel compelled to respond to it, or be fucked. And I know I could make MORE efforts to Realize. Meditate more. Drink more blasted wheat grass. Do more selfless service. Open my heart in more of those moments when my infantile, poopy diaper clad emotional self screams, demonically demands that I remain shut tighter than the tightest of sphincters. Open, then? If I did THAT, I’d pass go, collect hecka money and go straight to the Boardwalk just beyond Heaven’s gates!

Just as I wrote that came another violent table shaking spell. What is that sposta mean? I dunno. What’s it sposta mean that Mykael and split a huge artichoke for lunch yesterday and he took his bowl of gnawed on leaves to the green bin and dumped them and fixed to the bottom of his bowl was an artichoke stained quarter! God, I want it to mean SOMETHING! Something auspicious.

Auspicious~ 1) Promising success; propitious; opportune; favorable

2) favored by fortune; prosperous; fortunate

I would say that a quarter in an artichoke could easily be construed as auspicious, in that case… I bet we’ll find a Ben Franklin in our next artichoke.

Effort and grace? I return to the page every day. For the love of it. I sit here in the gloomy café, my elbows bleeding with grease and my mind dripping with artichokes, stained quarters, lofty concepts, impassioned words. Effort. You read my words and feel something rise, from deep inside your being. Illumination. Your place, nestled in your now moment becomes spontaneously vivified. Maybe you remember that life is equal parts amazing and weird. Maybe you remember that you are not alone… and your brokenness only exists so the light can seep in, and burst out. Seep in and burst out, seep in and burst out. This is grace. My writing ignites entire clusters of hungry, ticklish minds in a wild fire fashion. Publishers and agents beg to represent me as an author. Money pours to me as I continue to pour out these inspired, musing words. That is grace. I wish I could see my own face…