The Battle of Light and Dark

“Don’t beat the darkness with a stick. Turn on the LIGHT.”

Those were the words of wisdom Devaki graced me with after she rung me up for the overpriced sugary, new-age drink I just bought as a bribe to face myself here on the Athena Gracelandian page, finally. Gosh… it’s been two weeks and some change, since I last sprinkled my musings upon your mind… which isn’t really THAT long. But it feels like eternity, because while two weeks in Heaven flies by, the same span in the Underworld drags on like a bad case of intestinal worms. (I’m almost done with my artisan drink already. I don’t really have much restraint when it comes to sweet liquid. I just keep wanting to pour it into my ever-eager mouth.)

I’ve been at the Momshram since the day after I last posted a written report of my inner world. When I first got here, I felt drunk on springtime. Everything is LUSH and green and abounding with epic vibrancy. A rainbow assortment of exhibitionist wild flowers smile and wink from within the wide-splayed folds of everywhere, and birds sing their evocative songs of seduction and lust. Baby goats are toppling out of their mama’s immense bellies and quickly learning to leap and frolic on rolling carpets of tender spring grasses. The raw milk is flowing like wine in Rome. (or the sweet, expensive drink down my esophagus…)

Meanwhile I have been fighting for the right to wear my sturdy ball and chain in the smelly pits of hell. I guess it hasn’t helped that I’ve been in the pms and menstrual phase of my cycle. And add to that the astrological mess of the grand cross and the lunar and solar eclipse and lord knows what other celestial intensity. It boils down to me being “called forth” …You know, to evolve… to step more fully into my divine power and strength… But as I rise, in rushes a huge backdraft of fear and resistance to transcending my comfort zone, to letting go of limiting beliefs and habits of collapse. Ahhhh!!! It’s been wild!!!

Ick. I am not enjoying writing about this stuff. Do I HAVE to? No. Of course not. I am the benevolent ruler of Athena Graceland, and hence can write about whatever I fancy. But… I want to share with you the truth of the inner journey I’ve been on. Ya know… just in case you can relate… In case illuminating my inner struggles helps you to realize and transcend your own. So in service of transmutation and healing; shining light into dark crevices, I shall trudge on.

I’ve broken up with Ed at least twice in the past two weeks. And had a baker’s dozen more heart and gut wrenching conversations with him. If you want to avoid responsibility for your own brilliance, I *hightly* recommend falling madly, passionately and soulfully in love with a married (or otherwise unavailable) man!!! It’s a killer strategy for staying stuck!!!

But on the other hand, if you want a loving Relationship founded in deep friendship, mutual support and trust, that is *impossible* to become “too comfortable” and hide out in– so that you have plenty of time and space to do your soul work… I *also* recommend getting involved with a married (or otherwise unavailable) man! It’s amazing how “reality” is a matter of perspective.

I keep waffling back and forth between identification with the light side and the dark side. The contrasts are particularly ACCUTE these days. The dark is f-ing dark. And it becomes more ferocious and rabid as I beat it with my big stick. I beat it until I am exhausted and surrounded by demons… and then I fall to my knees and beg for mercy… gingerly groping for the Light switch, with a trembling hand.

I truly believe that world peace will naturally occur when we emerge ultimately victorious over the inner battle. When we choose once and for all to release illusions and rest blissfully in Eternal Truth. I will bet you EVERYTHING I have and AM, that the world you perceive “outside” is merely the effect of what you choose to believe from the inside; evidence of what you WILL to see. I know, it all seems so REAL. So convincing, is this dream world. But we ARE made in the image of God… meaning that each of us have the innate power to call forth the world. Simply by where we invest our faith. In Love. Or in fear. In Unity, or in separation. (I aspire to recognize God speaking to me in the language of light, from within all things.)

I recently took a few leaps; made commitments that required soul-expansion. I committed to going back to Ananda Laurelwood (Oregon) in June, to teach yoga to the summer interns. I also signed up to give a spiritually inspired speech at “joymasters” (the ananda version of toastmasters!), and I signed up for a month-long video challenge, designed for leaders, coaches, visionaries, teachers to get their message out to the world, by making a three minute video every day for the month of May.

Please hear me when I say that I YEARN to be my best self! To be a source of luminous, vivacious inspiration, and raw, soulful authenticity in this world… I know in my bones and guts that that is why I am here. But I have some deep habits of resistance, hiding and playing itsy-bitsy. (Way more dramatic than merely playing small!) OM KRIM KALI MA!!!! Unleash your merciful devastation upon the suffocating grip of my inner demons! Obliterate them in the destructive force of your INFINITE LOVE!!!

Stepping into commitments that stretched me beyond who I have known myself to be thus far, washed me in the aforementioned “backdraft of fear”. I felt my invisible inner self widen… and then snap shut like a violent rubber band. The voices of inadequacy have been screaming up from my depths. Actually, from a momentary vantage point of neutrality, I must say, it’s actually been quite remarkable… the choir of self denigration and pain singing up from inside me! I even withdrew my participation in joymasters. I decided instead that I must return to the Bay Area. Ananda is feeling way too wholesome and conservative for me (I got reprimanded for wearing a tank top that showed hints of my belly while I was leading sadhana). Plus I need to earn some money. Plus I can’t stand the thought of being apart from Ed for the ENTIRE SUMMER, and I burn to spend quality time with him. Plus I need to be in the company of people who speak my language and inspire my Becoming: the wild, sexy, bad-ass, ignited light warriors.

As for the video challenge, I realize that I need to reach over and grab the wheel; expel that poisonous perfectionist from the driver’s seat. I notice that I’ve got this subtle story that I have no right to stand on the mountain and sing out the message of my heart and soul UNTIL I AM PERFECT. Until I have it ALL FIGURED OUT. But my bullshit-o-meter is screaming at that. Inhale. Exhale. My job is to stand tall, feel my bare feet spread into the warm, fertile spring earth, breathe deep into my womb, allow my heart to relax open, and just let it flow, baby.

The time is NOW. The place is Earth. The meaning is Love. The word is…

OM!

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The Perplexing Mess of Relationship

Well, it’s official… Athena Grace LMNOP does not know how to win at the sordid game we call Relationship.  Which is ironic, because I remember like a year and a half ago when my eyes were still all clouded with operatic stardust, telling a man behind me in line at Trader Joes that I was really good at Relationship.  I might have even told him I had a gift at it.  Ha!  That’s embarrassing to admit!  That was back in the days when my Love was still running on the fossil fuel combination of lust and moon honey.  That was back in the day when I my well of devotion-stained patience seemed to slice right through the core of the earth, stretching not just to China, but beyond our very own Milky Way.

I used to feel like such a spiritual, enlightened bad-ass during those mile long fights with Mykael where I would just keep switching from reserve tank to reserve tank to reserve tank, draining each of them without a fret or a care.  And now?  And now… I am the camel with the perpetually broken back.  I am the bomb with the fuse almost as big as a microscopic splinter.

Remember back in the day when this blog practically revolved around all my churnings in relationship with Mykael?  And then suddenly, apocalyptically, his presence here on the page mostly blinked out like a dinosaur.  (I just had a really long pause while my mind’s eye tried to conceive of the image of a dinosaur “blinking out”.  I wondered, “Is that a good metaphor?”  I heard myself say, “It doesn’t really make sense”… to which I replied, “yeah, but I like it…”  I love being my own boss here on the page.  Whatever I say goes.  It’s a pretty sweet deal.  Anyway, I imagined it would be a drooling tyrannosaurus rex  that blinked out… one that was charging toward me, poised to DEVOUR… and then *BLINK*…*poof*… suddenly he is gone without a trace, only some rainbow colored neon psychedelic smoke remains.  And it smells like rotten eggs, like when you light those little colored smoke bombs on Fourth of July.)

Why the sudden out-blinking of my gratuitous mention of Mykael?  Well… because so many of my thoughts and feelings have been delicately fetal, not wholly formed and potentially damaging.  Not to mention so mercurial.  I have not been ready to commit to any of my view points for more than a day at a time at best.  And given that, I have realized that it’s not even a healthy subject matter for me to focus on in the privacy of my own mind.  I have been cultivating the self discipline to focus on myself and my path.  I have been spending much time in quietude as well as investing myself in other relationships.  (He too has been focused on matters of deeper purpose.)  It feels like a slow, gentle pulling apart.  But it’s really confusing in some moments.

Confusing because he has been so beautifully virtuous and generous toward me.  He has been giving me so much space to free fall through all the myriad of emotional spaces I have been breathing my way through… with such a sincere spacious generosity and unconditional love.  My greatest fear has been that because I am not committed to a future with him he would take his well worn, conditional love and lock it away behind the door to his own, private bedroom.  I should be afraid of that.  I have done it many times over the course of our relationship… always secretly hoping that HE would be the one to muster the courage to choose generosity and come back to hardened, sour me.  And mostly he has come to me… He has taught me a lot about being generous.  Staying.  About loving.

But I guess not enough, because I still don’t know that I want to stay and love.  That is what is so damn confusing.  I love him.  I LOVE HIM.  And… our relationship feels like perpetual hard work and fights and disappointments… and I think I might be crazy to keep choosing that.  But then I think I might be crazy to let it go… because are these lessons that I’m gonna have to face somewhere along the line, no matter what???  I don’t know.  Probably.  But there is some value in being alone for a while too… it’s been seven years since I was alone.  I did not even consider myself a woman back when I was twenty three.  (I started to feel like a woman at 27.  And since then, I feel more and more like a woman as the chorus of clocks tick me riper and closer to death.)

So you see… I’m in a tangle.  It’s confusing.  I’d rather think about other things, like cream colored ponies and schnitzel with noodles and… what it means to really feel intimate with God.  What it is to really give my life over in service of Love.  What it is to really surrender to the truth of ultimate aloneness… and the ironic connection to all life implicitly nestled at the core of that.  These inquiries are a far better investment of my energy and time and mind these days.  But then… Mykael is in the bedroom next door and our lives are braided together in so many ways and every once in a while, that causes some friction or an accidental milk spill.

Like yesterday.

I was wanting more from him than usual.  I guess I was just sick of aloneness and wanting to sooth myself with the salve of being loved and loving.  But mostly stepping into a space of intimacy with him just felt like trying to drive a wrecked train.  Unless we just held each other.  Anything else proved disastrous.  Which naturally amped up my perplexity to the next level.  I feel him so deeply.  Resting in his arms feels like a deep, ancient home.  Everything in me ignites and flows and comes alive like vibrant starlight.  It feels so right and natural.  Until we try to talk… and then it’s all sparks and flames and flying grit.  Shrug.

Finally, after quite a few stabs at moving closer, we just had to do our own things again.  He carved (like always) and I went for an evening hike in the immaculate earthy cathedral otherwise known as Redwood Park.  I remembered the wisdom of Little Grandmother, advising us humans to get our energy from NATURE, rather than other people… and even though I left the house sobbing, soon enough I was full on sweet scents of dirt and pine and cooling air.  I emptied myself out with every fresh footstep.  I released myself to the silence of the forest.  And then, near the end of the hike, All Pervading Grace offered me the sweetest gift!  I came to the top of a hill… my eyes snuck left to the plunging valley which gave way to a copious helping of open sky… and was smacked oh so softly by vibrant pink, lavender and blue lullabies, wafting soft to meet my weary eyes.  And a near full moon passively dripping with breathing gold.  This tidy little pearl, glowing.  Purring and glowing with unconditional smirking revelation.  Below the sky, was a montage of variously colored and textured distant mountains, laced with rivery ribbons of soft fog.  Lucid.  Dreamy.  Medicine.  I breathed it.  And breathed it some more.  I let it flood all the secret crevices and empty spaces and hungry places inside me.

I am doing my best.  I really am.  I sorta wish my best was better… or less messy and confusing… but… as my dad would say, “It is what it is.”

Amen.

Letting Lonliness Slice Me into One

I was going to write about jury duty… I still might.  But I must start where I am.  It is a familiar place, though one that I try to avoid.  Fear and loneliness have seeped into me like wet, cold wind that sneaks right through winter clothes.  Three thirty in the afternoon and the sky is gray and unforgiving.  The air blowing through my open window chases me deeper under the covers of my bed.  I feel so lonely.  I was released from the courthouse by eleven am… and then my yoga student canceled our appointment for this evening.  So my whole day has become one long whisper of unstructured time and space.

Part of me wants to scramble and reach out to *some*one and make a plan.  My mind desperately tries to structure the rest of my waking day.  It is terrifying to be here, devoured by the most starkly ordinary moments, wrought with silence.  Silence!  The very thing that I have been yearning for.  Yes, the thirst for silence has been tickling my palate, pressing relentlessly against the bottom of my mind for some time now.  Then I read one of Souldipper’s most recent blogs, which exalted the virtuousness of silence, adding weighty validation to the increasingly amplified inner beckoning to submit to sacred quietude.  I have become hyper sensitive to words shared between myself and others and honestly, most of them are on par with light beer.

So here I am.  Silent.  And terrified.  Terrified by the threat of meaninglessness, aloneness, emptiness (The “nasty nesses”… Grin.).  Yearning to be diverted, yet digging my heals in and refusing to move.  I must face this.  I thought about taking myself on a date to the movies.  But I’m too stubborn.  I feel challenged by this state of panic. Seduced right to my edge.  I don’t want to be a typical American, stuffing in MORE of anything that I can get my smarmy mitts on…  I don’t want to reach in desperation for a hollow something to shove into this intimidating chasm.  I want to claim liberation.  I want to lean on God.  But God is so blessed quiet and that frightens me.  What if I spend the whole rest of the day trying to feel God’s presence… and I fail?  Then the joke’s on me, because here I was, reaching all of my hands out to this God character and all I wind up with are infinite fistfuls of Nothing.  (Wink.)

Does all of this sound crazy?  Ridiculous?  I’m just sharing my experience with you, because it is what is true right now.  I feel vulnerable, very vulnerable inviting you in to this weird crevice of my existence.  It doesn’t seem very normal.  I think most people would just go to the damn movies, or call up a friend, or put on some music and clean out their closet or paint a water color rendition of their orchid colony.  But not Athena… She’s got something to work out in this echoing realm of solitude.  I feel better putting words around it, transforming the experience from gaping infinite to defined, articulated, translated.

This unresolved relationship to aloneness as articulated by time and space is something I have used my intimate relationships to avoid facing.  I have cast my boyfriends as my saviors, my entertainers, my continuous distractions.  I am curious and excited to navigate the world alone for a while and heal this wounded neighborhood of my soul.  (Are Mykael and I breaking up?  Dunno… but we are certainly separating for a while.  I am going to spend some months in Kauai and he will go stay with his parents while he passes his nursing exams and finds a job.  I will be Athena’s Athena.  I will be All Pervading Love’s Athena.  That is as far as I can see right now.)

Yesterday, Sir John of the Land of Unicorn Milk and Frivolously Spilling Coins (Reno) drove our chariot back to foggy, dismal Oakland.  We drove on highway fifty, through South Lake Tahoe and we were both engulfed by silence for almost the entire drive.  Are there ANY words that can transport you into the sea of awe that I splashed in as we wound along those mountain roads?  Clunky-assed words…  I am digging.

Lucid.  Imagine massive mountainsides composed of gray stone, interspersed with magestic, towering pine trees.  Imagine the vibrant play of lucid, tremulous blue, screaming green, entire intricate worlds of brown and this almost silvery, immovable sea of stone.  Imagine all of this set to the sweet scented music of hot mountain air rushing at your face through an open window.  Enchanted.  Mystical.  I would not have been at all surprised to see gnomes out gathering mushrooms and medicinal barks at twilight, or unicorns frolicking in the occasional waterfall that tumbled down the long, hard, timeless faces of the breath giving rocks.  Rocks.  I was taken by their mostly smoothed contour and definition.  In some places, the mountain peaks appeared to be composed of precariously stacked boulders.  In other places, the same face of stone would stretch unbroken for long spells.  And how do trees grow so virile from ancient, impenetrable stone?

Shrug.  I did my best.  But the wonders of this world are not to be clumsily told.  They are made exactly to fit into the wide-open chasms of peace that reside at the center of each one of us, as lock incites penetration by key.

That epic scenery is a tough act to follow in the way of conversation… so even as we descended into the relentless heat of the sprawling suburbs of unsavory Sacramento, we kept quiet, each nursing the mysterious nectar of our own private world.  Then I got a text from Mykael updating me on his plans upon moving out of our home at the end of August.  In that moment, the curtain of serenity tumbled up and fear, loneliness and alienation swept down in me.  Suddenly I was looking change in right in the cold, reptilian eyes and all my heart could do was stammer and squeeze in on its self.  I felt inundated by cold and shadows.  As if receiving his cue from the All Pervading Cinematic Director, Sir John popped his CD of Coleman Barks reciting Rumi poems into the player.  My paralyzed heart shuddered with a strange cocktail of heavy relief and boundless woe.  The poems were set to delicate, evocative music.  I released myself into the hidden worlds that spilled from them.  Every single poem spoke to my heart.  Or spoke FROM my heart… My eyes became the mouths of raging rivers.  I clung to this sane and sacred poetry like one lost in a violent sea, clinging to a benevolent, bleached piece of driftwood.

Poem upon poem, lavish with timeless truth, ageless wisdom, transcendent beauty and I let each one break my heart wider.  Soft, silent sobs.  I let my soul feed and release.  Outside, Sacramento streamed by in a series of perplexingly meaningless images and sweltering heat.  A couple of times I noticed Sir John wipe tears from his own face and I knew that he too was allowing his heart to be forever changed by this slicing strand of moments.  It was poetry at it’s finest, living through us.  It hurt.  This Love so big trying to squeeze its way through two ordinary humans in a big, silver diesel pick-up truck, speeding through a mundane, baking afternoon in Sacramento.

God, keep all these worldly distractions, I want them not.  I choose this awkward aloneness.  Help me dive in and be quenched in the oasis of Peace that is always here to nourish me in this dream of thirst.  Amen.

Poetry Muse Strikes Again

Committing specific chains of words to the page… where does one begin when there is so much inside?  Where does one begin when one has not had a nourishing swig of uncontrollable laughter in too long to mention?  Yeah, that’d be me… Yesterday I realized I haven’t had a good laugh in way too long.  I have laughed.  That’s some consolation… but not the kind where I get an ab workout and feel divinely empty and blissfully spent afterwards.  Please, All Pervading Funny Bone, come take a swim under my skin.  I beg of Thee!

I guess I’ll tell you that I went to the Lake Meritt Farmer’s Market yesterday to serve as the Poetic Muse again!  But I felt extra shy.  Honestly, this new and uncaffeinated rendition of myself feels very tender and sensitive like a fresh hatched dinosaur.  (OMG, can you imagine how adorable that would be… to stumble upon a boulder sized egg, just in time for it to crack open from the inside and reveal the most shiny, tiny, slippery little tyrannosaurus rex!?  To me that sounds profound!  Which reminds me suddenly of a dream I had last night that I was in Disney Land on a Saturday night and all my friends wanted to go on dates.  I didn’t.  So I got left behind… and I was really bummed, because I wanted to go out and play, but I was not so moved to step out into the vast, dark amusement park on my own.  I didn’t want to be alone.  I was afraid of getting lost and of being bored.  I think I just stayed home and watched a movie starring Steve Carell instead.  (But even the movie was scary… in one scene he was walking through dark caves with blood dripping from the walls.  The only reason I could handle it, is because it was Steve Carell and he makes any situation more than palatable.)

Anyway, what a BRILLIANT metaphor for my experience of Life!  Alone in a vast, dark amusement park on a Saturday night!  Touche, I say to my own divine psyche!

Well, I sat on the wall with my typewriter for a while… But I after not too long, I just couldn’t bare the sensations of so many people walking by and making intentional effort not to look at me.  It was excruciating.  I flirted with the idea of heading home.  But I decided to take a lap around and get my vegetables and hopefully load up on some courage and inspiration while I was at it.  I asked the young, handsome though tortured tamale salesman with open-sky-blue-eyes to typewriter sit for me.  And while I was at it, I asked him for some words of wisdom and strength.  He’s adorable, because he’s got this kinda mopey demeanor juxtaposed with a deep engagement in the moments we share… it puzzles me beautifully.  Like a good breathing poem should.  I felt stronger when I left him to hunt and gather.

Speaking of hunting and gathering, I have discovered these Japanese cucumbers that are SUBLIME.  They are so sassy and snappy like cool, submissive ice cubes.  The skin is thin enough not to be a bitter, dense hassle.  (And who likes bitter, dense hassles after all?)  I BOUGHT TWO!  This was a first… buying TWO entire cucumbers just for me…  You gotta try ‘em while they’re peaking.  If you know what’s best for you.

I’m in love with the man who works at that particular veggie stand.  Nothing fancy as far as love goes, but very mutual nourishing.  We just both savor the brief, simple moments of overlapping existence.  He’s a tall, slender black man who I bet has like ten pounds of dreadlocks, but he keeps them all neat in a big, black knitted hat.  He’s got the right kinda soul for me~ old, well seasoned, deep.  Honestly, we don’t even need to speak a single word to dig eachother’s groove… we just do because… it’s the American way.  (Actually, now that I think about it, there is no shortage of soul to be imbibed at farmer’s markets in general…)
I shared my conundrum with him of simultaneously wanting to run away and hide and to stand boldly committed in the face of my discomfort.   I said, maybe I just needed to find a different place to sit.  He grunted and quickly stated that there ARE no better places to sit.  As I hoped he would, he ordered me to march right back to my original perch and take the power back.  After I had an overflowing sac of vibrant, rainbow colored gifts from the earth, that’s exactly what I did.

Thankfully, because I connected with two very awake souls and wrote them pretty kick ass poems if I do say so myself.  I only have the bandwidth to share about one though… Jim.  He was all decked out in cyclist gear.  He approached me and shared that his wife was a poet also.  And an amazing renaissance woman.  As he spoke of her, he spilled with deep respect, admiration and devotion for this woman.  Honestly, she DID sound about like me in another quarter of a century… Which rings these here bells, since I’m all about aging and ripening.

This man, Jim, talk about a wellspring!  Lately I have been consciously collecting Lovers of Life… Because that is something that I am fostering in myself.  After so many arduous years of feeling depressed and suicidal, I am SO ready to love life.  And since we are the company we keep… But back to this particular slice of passionate humanity.  Jim shared himself with me unabashedly.  After sharing about his wife, I offered him a poem and asked him what was in his heart.  This question stirred something in him.  He told me that not so long ago he had had some heart troubles that may have been precursors to heart attack.  This had changed his life.  After surgery, he actually FELT his heart in a whole new, profound way.  He quit a job he hated.  I mean *REALLY* hated.  It had been sadistically sucking him dry of life for a long arduous walk through the soul’s desert scapes.

I just have to say… that I have met so many people who have been freed and seasoned by life threatening illness.  In fact, I think that should be a top criteria for being the president.  You must’ve had a brush with death in order to be in charge of our county!  Ahem.  So Jim… His amazing wife was a total support during this massive transformation.  And now he is a passionate cyclist.  On his rides, he sniffs out fascinating, liberated humans and makes a connection with them.  Then he blogs about it!  Sounds familiar…

He told me that on a recent ride, he met a woman riding a unicycle with a mountain bike tire, up very steep hills.  She said she was training to ride through Mongolia, where none of the roads are paved!  And he met an old hippy freak with a long beard and a Hawaiian shirt who it turned out was a WORLD CHAMPION gambler!  And… He met me.  He said he would blog about me.  He took my photo as I plunked out his profound poem.  (One thing I forgot to say about Jim is that he was wearing these red lensed sun glasses… so I could see his eyes, but not fully.  In retrospect, I realize that the whole time we were connecting, this was passively driving me bonkers.  I just wanted to bask in the unfiltered light of his soul as is my proclivity.  Just for the record…)

So he has already written the said blog.  I discovered it last night and it made my heart dance like a drunk!  I loved being able to see my offering from a whole new angle… and the rippling impact that it has on the world.  Check it out:

http://flashblog2011.blogspot.com/2010/07/athenaa-goddess-of-poetry.html

The last thing I’ll say about Jim is that I was so inspired by his dedication to being present, receiving the moment as a miraculous gift.  I have been practicing that lately and it is absolutely stunning what characters, situations and shades of aliveness that the One graciously offers at our Holy Feet!  Thank you, oh All Pervading Bestower of Winking Profundity!
Amen.

My Pilgrimage to Ananda Part III

It’s another one of those mornings where I don’t want to write.  I’m feeling flooded with emotions and overwhelmed by this all too familiar experience of being crushed under the weight of my own recklessly tangled dharma.  Every  night that I have slept here at Ananda, I have had disturbing dreams one after another, waking up numerous times with my heart pounding.  I came here to release.  I came here to heal and contemplate.  Apparently I have been doing a good chunk of work at night.  But this morning, I hit a point of overwhelm.  My heart was as full as a well fed tick and tears kept slipping out and streaming all about my face in sadhana.  Lately A Course in Miracles has been preaching all about how only joy is real.  Pain and sorrow are not real.  So every time I rub elbows (and every other imaginable body part as well) with my pain and sorrow, I wonder what I am to make of those seemingly intense strands of aching moments.  Will I ever be healed enough to just be a god damn fountain of ever-new joy?  Is it self indulgent to succumb to all this grief and devastation?

I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but I could not find my emotions at ALL for the first half of my twenties.  I had buried them is such a deep safe chamber inside of me, to sort out later when I felt grounded and safe enough.  That time came.  And because I had been without them for so long, my emotions became the most precious delicacies to me.  Now when they come, I feel whole.  But… I also wonder if I’m stuck sometimes in indulgent eddies of sorrow… Lately I have been feeling called from the inside to practice continuously stepping into gratitude, presence and joy.  But where does that leave all the shadow-strewn nooks and crannies of my heart and soul?  Must shine light on them.  Must love through them.  Easier said than done.  God, it seems to be taking a lot of WORK right now to be awake and on duty.

As I wrote all that, my mom was puttering around in the kitchen fixing herself a late breakfast. Today is her day off from working in the Crystal Hermitage gardens.  Something about my mom is that she incessantly hums.  I think it is so dear.  Sometimes I can hear her coming before I can see her.  She is a fountain of faintly gurgling song.  I trip out thinking that probably she will die before me and I will live a portion of my life without her nectarous humming and her irritating little habits, her stories of day to day existence and the people she knows.  Something else I have come to love about my mom is that she can’t eat anything without spilling it down her front.  It used to drive me crazy, but now it tickles and delights me.

I didn’t really intend to go on like that about my emotions, but it was so present inside me, that nothing else could find its way out.  If I didn’t express it, I would have just collapsed under the immense weight and opted not to write.  Let that be a lesson to you.  If you think you are having “writer’s block”, which is just an old wives tale any way, just write about what’s most true for you in the moment and then shazam!  You will be amazed at the energy that’s freed up!

Now I’m ready to tell you the exciting news.  The night before last, my mom got an email from the head Swami, Kriyananda’s assistant, Lakshman.  He informed her that the Hallowed Swami had given her a spiritual name (upon her request) back in march, but for some reason she hadn’t received the email.  He forwarded the original email sent by Swami Kriyananda.  Kriyananda had informed her that he couldn’t get down and funky with her first choice, Aria… but that he felt that the name Sumitra was a great fit for her, and if she would receive it, he offered it with his heart-felt blessings.  Sumitra.  She rolled it around inquisitively on her mind’s palate.  Sumitra.  Getting a spiritual name bestowed upon you at an ashram is as big a deal as starting your period, getting married or being visited by a Santa Clause who only comes once in your entire life!

Immediately she plunged into the world wide web to research the name.  First she discovered some long-winded explanation about how Sumitra was a modest supporting role in the Hindu Epic, The Mahabharata.  This did not seem to please her.  So she searched on, learning that at its most simplistic, the name meant “Good Friend”.  Still she expressed distaste.  She did not feel that “good friend” encapsulated her.  I could feel her deflation.

Good friend.  As we lay in the warm darkness of her bedroom, nearing the cusp of slumber, I let the meaning sink below the surface of my mind, into the dark depths where concepts drown and alchemize in their own time into richer soul wisdom.  Good friend.  I told her that honestly, at the end of the day, I couldn’t see anything more valuable than both BEING a good friend and HAVING good friends.  All the rest of the stuff we value in life is mere jingle bells and penny whistles.  Then I thought of my favorite Sufi poet, Hafiz.  He mostly refers to All Pervading Light as “The Friend”.  And reading his poetry, one can just tell that his tenderness and intimacy with God is sheer potency.  It is the kind of food that could sustain entire multiverses for Eternity and a day!  I ASPIRE to have that kind of a bond with God.  No REALLY.  I have to say that again, because I want it SO BAD.  I yearn to feel infinitely saturated by my friendship with the One.  Doesn’t that sound like the BEST thing EVER?  (Sure Athena, you just keep right on a-knockin’ from the Inside…)

I suggested that she contemplate her relationship to friendship… really chew on it and suckle the juice.  Not long after that, I was abducted by a tall, dark, handsome Sandman.  When the morning breathed fresh light into us once again, she loved her new name, Sumitra.  Oh… her *obsolete* name (wink) is Susan… So you can see that it’s a natural stone’s throw from her original sonic invocation.  Spiritual names are that which we grow into.  When we first get them, they seem baggy and awkward.  It is time and experience’s loving hands that sculpt our very beings so that the names glovishly hug our truest essence.  I can not think of anything better to refine ones self to fully master than a Good Friend.

They say that it has only happened one other time that Swami Kriyananda has sent someone their name and it has not gotten through to them.  My mom wondered why her naming was postponed for four months.  Shrug.  Who knows… but if I was the center of the Universe and I had the power to say, I would declare that it was so I could be present for this illustrious rite of passage in the life of my Beloved Mother, Sumitra.  I feel blessed.

Amen.

This Is What Love Looks Like (Today)

Fear.  It feels crippling today.  But I don’t really feel like hanging out in it for too long, so I’m just gonna pick myself up by the… hmmm, I don’t have boot straps.  I don’t even know what boot straps ARE.  Pick myself up by the heart strings.  Pick myself up by the angel wings.  Pick myself up by the truth of me who sings even now, when I seem to have forgotten the words to my own song.  Maybe that’s because there aren’t any words to my soul song… But I couldn’t tell you for sure, because nobody ever told me I had a song, so I quickly learned to forget this crucial tidbit of my selfhood.  Song?  Yeah, haven’t you heard those wondrous tales of indigenous cultures, where when a woman conceives a child, she goes off alone into nature and listens intently for the song of her unborn child?  They know… that every human has our own unique song.

But I have forgotten my song, so instead, I am listening to the Full Lotus Kirtan Show (one of my favorite podcasts).  On this week’s show, the host, [Saint] Blake Tedder is playing all Maha Mantras… you know, the Hare Krishna mantra. (an oldie but goodie, if you ask me…)  He says that this mantra is a straight shot, one way ticket to the kind of profound oneness you thought could only exist on TV and in the movies.  No, it’s real, and I’m on my way, baby, because in my ears, its all Maha Mantra, all the time.  Maha means “Great God”.

I just watched the barista empty three small jars of raspberry jam into one larger jar.  Thick, red slime.  And the chime of big metal spoon on glass, set against my maha-mantric Indian tablas and those clinky, kirtan chimes.  At times like this, when my usual constructs of safety, security and continuity are bursting like faulty dams and the mystery surges through like reckless, liquid, high-speed trains, it’s the little things I cling to with frivolous glee (stained with passive desperation).  God, I don’t know what to say at all today.  I just can’t shake this quiver.  It feels like I’m on the precipice of falling apart completely… but not fully letting go.  Oh!  Well in that case, Athena, just let go.  Fall apart.  Free fall through this moment.  Seems so simple.  As I wrote that, I realized that my heart was clenching, so I relaxed it, and now I feel like I could sob enough to fill an entire kiddie pool at a flea circus.

Member how I told you that the other day I heavily procrastinated writing my blog by searching for high school friends on facebook?  Well, I did, and one of them got back to me within a modest smatter of cosmic hot flashes!  She was ELATED to hear from me.  In the two messages she wrote me, I could feel her leaping up out of every single word and grabbing me by the collar, shaking me with a zesty strain of hallelujah.  She said she had been searching for me for YEARS… but by my old, busted name, Dawn Horwitz.  “Athena Grace!?!?!  What the *&%^$#@???” she spat.  I swear, what a gift to be so revelatorily received!  I wish EVERYONE was that excited to hear from me!  Briana is her name.  I met her when I was a “soft-more” and she was a senior.  She fell from the sky, into my drama class, a fresh transfer from Hayward High.  I never had any fond feelings for Hayward, and quite frankly, I was astonished that such a holy morsel could come from such a trashy neck of the woods.  (No offense if you are a Hayward Native or ardent supporter.)  My first impression of Briana was that she was always smiling.  But not some corny cheerleader smile… A soul smile.  She wore a depth, a wisdom, a style that dripped with authenticity, creativity and freedom.  I wanted to know her immediately.

I was amazed by Briana’s self awareness, her graceful ability to be herself in an environment that did not exactly foster such authenticity.  Briana’s presence in my life was like stumbling, parched and broken, upon a desert oasis.  When I wrote to her the other day, I told her in my brief synopsis of my life that writing is the backbone of my existence, my number one passion.  In her reply, she told me that she got her masters in creative writing, but she hasn’t written a word since, because she’s afraid she’ll find out she’s a sucky writer.  Can you believe that?  I can.  But I think it totally blows, with a capital B, that rhymes with P, that stands for POOOOL!  (I need to watch the Music Man soon.  I want to belt every song and maybe even stick thumb tacks in the bottom of my shoes and pretend I know how to tapdance!!!)  Writing.  It’s one of the FEW places in my life where I feel free from my own self criticism.  I mean, not that I don’t experience the self critical voices… But on the page, I just allow them, and glean freshly squeezed amusement from the ridiculousness therein.  To my self critical voices’ dismay, they actually fuel my writing in a positive way.  I’ll count that as a blessing.  Oh, woops, that reminds me… I was supposed to be locked away in my corner of condemnation, counting my ass off till beyond the end of time when the blessings are finally all accounted for, once and for all.  Whoops.  I’m here, instead, talking in concentric linguistic circles, like the ones that lovingly scream messages of impermanence in the faces of rain puddles.

Why do I put so much pressure on myself to be something, somehow, someway?  What am I trying to achieve beneath all this petty, unconscious expectation?  Survival.  That’s a big one, of course.  Being loved.  That’s the other Maha motivation.  But fuck.  I am loved, because I AM LOVE.  I wish I could live as though I knew this.  I can.  I can live as LOVE.  I DO live as love.  I just have some mental habits that have managed to convince me otherwise.  Simple.  But they can’t pull the wool over this LOVE-drenched bitch’s eyes no mo’.  I’m going on strike.

Okay, I’m gonna go retreat to my bedroom and cry my flea circus pool now.  Oh wait, speaking of crying… last night, I was walking alone to the grocery store and I saw this man standing in the dirt in his front yard.  He looked like a grubby, dirty man who you might encounter on mission street, or operating heavy machinery while nursing a Budweiser.  But instead, he bent over and cast little handfuls of seeds in shallow holes he had just dug in the soil.  Can I be candid with you now?  THIS WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I’D EVER SEEN!  This man, who according to my narrow, binding stereo type, should have been parked like a lump in his favorite armchair watching sports was out connecting with his modest, urban patch of earth.  Creating life.  Creating beauty.  Seeing this holy vision turned the contents of my heart upside down and I cried the rest of the way to the store.

AMEN.

Backstroking Through Vivid Forgiveness

Before I got in the pool this morning, I was ridden with anxiety and fear.  But I knew that even just seeing my life guard James’s kind, smiling face would put my quivering heart at ease.  James.  He is such a good person.  So is Jason, the other half of the dynamic life guard duo.  Even just writing about them right now makes my heart want to explode like the mother of all fireworks.  Because come on… life guards do NOT get paid that much.  It’s not a high profile, glamour job.  I used to consider being a life guard from time to time when I felt desperate and confused about my path… All of the other life guards that work at my pool are way less generous of heart.  They are generally younger and look like they are bored out of their minds and actually resent me for the fact that they are “forced” to be sitting there climbing their own hidden walls for ten dollars an hour.  But not James and Jason.  It’s obvious that they give a flying fuck, a fuck that flies courtesy of a pair of over the top, gossamer wings~ if you saw them you’d wonder if someone slipped some acid in your cappuccino when you had your back turned… I love those kind of winged fucks!

Ahem.  Flying fucks.  James and Jason are some kind of saints or angels in disguise as highly normal men.  But I feel so loved and loving every time I take a morning swim.  Jason and I have this secret hello we exchange, usually as I make my goose bumpy mad dash, fresh and wet from the shower, out into the frigid morning air (that’s right, who’s alive?!?!) in my little two piece athletic swimmy (term of endearment for “swim suit”) and flail into the not quite warm water.  We exchange a modest “wave”, involving the repeated bending and straightening of our right index fingers.  (Goodbye is the pinky).  James is an older black man.  He wears clean, crisp, brand name athletic jumpsuits.  I think he’s missing a tooth or two, and the ones still hanging on to their gums look like they could use some TLC from a dentist.  His finger nails are usually extra long and dirty.  His laugh is deep and resonant.  Rich, slow and gurgling with authentic joy.  It reminds me of a negro spiritual… Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, or Wade in the Water.  Jason… I’m pretty sure he’s hot for me.  For being a pretty average guy, he makes fantastic eye contact.  I know my lifeguards got my back.  And I don’t take it lightly… usually.  God, please give back to Jason and James a thousand fold of what they give to us devoted swimmers…

James greeted me this morning and I tasted that delicious, hoped for hope.  The water felt extra warm, which was so soothing to me.  It felt sensuous, tropical and womb-esque.  I swam with the intention of being at peace.  I thought of Amma.  She will be here next week.  Thank GOD.  I am so ready to fold into the safety and divine comfort that waft from her like an inherent fragrance.  Many times I begin to cry, inexplicably, from the depths of my being when she enters the temple.  I love watching her sit in meditation.  Her obvious absorption in the folds of holy peace is so soothing and inspiring to me.  So I swam through tropical waters, fixing my mind on this embodiment of unconditional love.  This mother of the universe.  Except my mind kept slipping back into its well-worn groove of fear.

I realized that I am like an infant on my path to God.  Except way more self loathing than your garden variety infant.  It would serve me to be more infantish… in the way of innocence, presence, forgiveness.  How many times does an infant fall down when they are learning to walk?  A gazillion.  They may or may not cry… but they certainly don’t beat themselves up.  And here I am… learning to live in deep trust and alliance with the All Pervading Love of the universe and beyond… but forgetting so often that I am not alone, that I am loved and held and deeply precious.  And every time I wake up and remember that I have forgotten~ A-GAIN, I feel disappointed in myself.  I feel hopeless and frustrated.  I just want to wake up already.  I want to perceive the light inside, already…  I want to feel a love that has no reason, no beginning and certainly no end.  I guess an apropos word for my experience is impatience.  As I moved through the warm, buoyant, aqua heaven, I thought I’d like to be more like an infant.  When I fall from remembrance, I will simply forgive the fall, the hard ground, my lack of coordination and just pick myself up and merge right back into my natural state of presence induced wonder.  If I’m not as perfected yet as I wish I was, the next best thing to be is humble and patient, I suppose.

What IS this world?  I want to look upon the multiplicity of forms with such unapologetic severity that I penetrate the illusion and see the underlying something that lives in everything.  Today I want not just to see, but to SEE.  Do you know what I mean?  I mean that I want to dive beneath the waves of my ever fluctuating mind and experience a quiet presence.  Right here.  Right now.  I want to be deafened by the roaring sound of OM, that singings everything into holy existence.  This lonely, single syllable.  I want to merge with this lonely, single syllable, so that I am proactively singing as the entire choir of creation.

That reminds me… I keep having dreams about playing my harmonium.  I yearned to have one… so that I could paint invisible, inner space with “sonic lotuses”… So my very divine, very biological mother gave me one for my birthday last year… And like many of my heart’s dreams and desires, it sits, neglected, collecting tragic dust as I procrastinate and flounder in fear of the arduously slow unfolding of the lotus otherwise known as my Destiny.  But it has been calling to me so loud and clear from the nocturnal folds of my psyche.  I must play my harmonium.  I don’t know how.  But who cares!  I know I could just BE with it, and it would tell me a lot about who it is and who I am, and how we can form a divinely inspired alliance and create sonic lotuses to grace to this world, who perpetually thirsts for offerings of sacred beauty.

I forgive.  I forgive.  I forgive.  I forgive.  I forgive.  I forgive.

Amen.

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