Athena Graceland is morphing into new dimensions of HALLELUJAH!!!
Yeah, I’m in love with video now.  My intention is to raise YOU up!!!!!

Are you ready to explore new frontiers of ecstasy, delight, gratitude and wonder?

If so, you have come to the right place!!!

Let the SHRI resound through your sweet slice of infinity within!!


Breaking Up and Stalking Joy

Two pm and the sun finally smiles upon Oakland, California.  But it’s not a sincere, unabashed smile… Nah, it’s the vindictive, effortful smile of one who slogs along with a steel heart thumping from a cage a thousand miles below sea level.  There’s a rumor going around that the season we are currently steeping in is named summer… but I’m not convinced of that.  August in the bay area is a frown waiting to happen if you ask Athena Grace LMNOP.  I want to get back in my pajamas, turn on the heat and luxuriously suck hot cocoa through a twisty straw as tangled as the human psyche.  Actually, come to think of it, august in Oakland is the perfect month for breaking up.  Cold, grey, oppressive and generally distasteful.

Yeah, Mykael and I are breaking up.  But we’ve been tiptoeing around those jagged, rigid and aggressively final words.  Instead we’ve been using such terms as “diverging paths” or “parting ways”… but come on… at the end of the day, the results are the same.  I am going to live in Kauai for an indefinite amount of time and feel a wellspring of enthusiasm for the opportunity to be a single woman (for the first time since I can even honestly proclaim womanhood) and he is going to live “in our friends’ tool shed”, as he so dramatically loves to put it, and create stability for himself.  Is it really a tool shed that beckons him from the visible horizon of his destiny?  Shrug… I’m just gonna stick with the theatrics and say, “Heck yes, it’s a tool shed!”

Now remember, I have earned my LMNOP from the highly acclaimed, cosmically accredited School of Mostly Soft Knocks… but my learning did not include a crash course in the art of breaking up.  In this realm, I still feel like a floundering fledgling.  Last time I broke up, I was concurrently enrolled in a new beginning (left my ex-fiance for Mykael), so I didn’t have to be fully present to the arduous ripping apart process.  I have to say, it’s about as much fun as a trip to the dentist.  But a mostly benign trip.  Not like a cursed root canal… just a heavy-handed cleaning and a flossing that floods your mouth with the twangy flavor of blood and leaves your gums sore and tender for days afterward.  But like a visit to the dentist, it is a necessary evil and is actually an investment in wellbeing and longevity.

We are still on good enough terms… and we still share a home.  But we just don’t bend over backwards on a regular basis in service of the happiness of the other.  (Mykael just came into my bedroom and commented, “That stern blogging look…”  Curious, I asked him, “What does it look like?”  He made a face like a cross baby getting ready to poop in its diaper.  Wow, who knew!  My secret is officially OUT.)  Yeah, so we’ve allowed our lives and schedules become radically mismatched.  We no longer share meals and I don’t cook for him anymore.  He has flaked on our rock climbing dates twice in a row… and we don’t generally share all of our inner processes and micro movements through moment to moment, day to day life.  Sometimes this is easy and natural, and sometimes it makes me ache.  Our hearts only bloom toward one another occasionally, when it feels safe… which is more of a lottery than anything else.  The space of our relationship is analogous to having a shower that only produces warm water some of the time.  You can only hope and pray that when it’s time to get clean, it will steam.  And if you are enlightened enough, you can also learn to appreciate the bracing vibrancy of a good dowsing in frigid waters.  Heck, you might even begin to enjoy it, by closing your eyes and pretending you are standing on a picturesque mountain top under a waterfall of crystalline alpine snowmelt.

This is what spiritual big shots mean when they say that you can not always control circumstances, but you can always control your relationship and attitude toward them.  I’ve been working pretty hard to keep my mind and my heart lifted to All Pervading Goodness these days in the face of… all of it…  Sigh… But I must admit that I have some very unflattering grooves into which I slip.  When the little girl in me feels threatened, damn-shazam does she make a mess of snot and flames and sharp fingernails.  Trust me, I am doing my best to take good care of her…

The other day, during our mini-vacation in Sausalito, Mykael and I were sauntering along the waterfront after a delicious late breakfast.  It was soupy and cold outside which set the stage nicely for the dark cloud that swept right in and shrouded my heart.  In an instant, I was flooded with cold, damp melancholy.  I panicked.  I did not want to feel this way.  But of course, the more I fought it, the more I was on my knees at its mercy.  My eyes desperately swept the external scapes searching for any shred of redemption.  I watched vacuously as an asian couple in fancy clothes posed on the pier as a photographer snapped stiff, constipated shots of them.  Naturally, the woman was way underdressed in her little black, strapless cocktail gown and matching heels.  Mykael guessed that they were honeymooners.  Usually promenading through a scene like this would have been a source of plastic enchantment for me… but not so under the weight of my spontaneous ache.  It comes every once in a while when I am just wanting to sink into the silken space of happily ever after and all I can find is a flawed moment with a man who is mostly pretty cool but our stupid dreams accidentally smashed one tragic afternoon.

But stay tuned, this story has a happy ending, dang it.  You know how I told you that I have this inner coach who gives me perpetual tips on how to navigate life and my inner-space therein?  Well, this mysterious someone that might be me and might not, invited me to sink deeper into the precise experience I was having on that foggy, Sausalito Pier, and there, it said, I would be able to taste the All Pervading Joy.  A quiet joy, independent of emotions and circumstances.  It was subtle… like rose petals amidst a heavy mist.  But I could not deny this whispering joy.  It was a glimpse of my Home.  At last.

This is the sustainable, understated joy I stalk in every moment of my existence.


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.