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.

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Could That Day Be Today?

She drew in a deep assed breath as her fingers hovered taught as thoroughbreds ready to make their thunderous break upon the keys.  She prayed to be moved by beauty and truth, or at least seduced by whimsy, tickled by the mere fact of existence.  Her heart felt like a dried out, pulpy shell, like an orange that had given all of its juice and now sat, waiting to decompose and become once again one with the soil from whence its tree’s very roots had once suckled from the cool, earthy darkness, the very essence of its juice-drenched, fruitful prime.

All that to say, I have had a rough two days.  Rough enough that after a year and a half of not being sick AT ALL, I have come down with a minor though annoying head cold.  Honestly, I truly believed that I would never be sick again, because I don’t believe in sickness. (I still don’t.)  But in spite of that, whoops, I somehow slipped.  Thankfully, word on the street is that “rough” is the new beautiful.  I cried enough in the last two days to last me the whole rest of the year.  But as Reverend Muwatta loves to remind us, the deeper the pain, the greater the joy.  So I guess I have been doing some massive renovations in my heart.  Cool.  I mean my first response is certainly not to praise the hell that I have been flailing through… but you have to remember, I just came from church and at East Bay Church of Religious Science, that’s how we roll.

His Holiness!… I am having an experience that could almost be construed as writer’s block.  What is it?  Oh dear, suddenly, I just feel like crying, A-GAIN.  Because now that my mom reads my blog, I do feel a little inhibited.  I don’t mean to… I feel afraid of being misunderstood, judged, unloved… by everyone, actually.  I feel afraid of being boring.  (To me, that’s the worst thing in the world.)  Like what if I was just wasting my time here on the page, when really, I should just be an accountant after all.  That made me laugh inside.  Phew, a crack of light in an otherwise dark mind.  God, please guide my mind.  Let my mind and my heart be ONE voice.  And let this voice speak on behalf of humanity.  I am here, I am available.  I open myself to the light.  The problem with being available to the light is that I must relinquish preconceived notions of what the light’s expression through me “should” look like.

Really, I just want to talk about… I don’t know.  I’ve been so confused lately.  I suppose that a big theme in the macrocosm is massive genocide of the parts of us that no longer serve on our paths toward and through illumination.  Dying.  Dying.  Can the dying process truly be easy?  Can I just let go and let these old parts of myself fall away like dead skin cells lost forever to the dusty world at large?  Life has been changing me as Life does… and I have found myself suffering… I was gonna say, “suffering intolerably”… but obviously my suffering IS tolerable, since I am here to tell the gory tale.  But the idealist in me has a vision of death that is pure surrender and awe inspiring grace.  By the time I am ready to drift daintily out of this body, I want to do it with full presence, and an ease like slipping out of a satin gown.  I suppose this merely requires full trust in our Omnipresent Love Monkey Upstairs.

Co-dependence.  It’s not working very well in my moment to moment experience anymore.  I am feeling perpetually disappointed by Mykael.  But it’s not his job to be my continuous source of entertainment, love, listening and everything else that I require in order to be a happy, well adjusted human.  Oh fuck, I’m on the verge of tears again… because lately it has seemed like we haven’t been fitting together at all.  Which just confuses the fuck out of me.  I am spinning right back into the loaded question of the purpose of relationship.  WHY COMMIT???  Is it supposed to be this hard?????  But festering in the unknown of this inquiry is only causing me suffering… So I think I’d better just table the question for a little while and go hang out with my women friends more, commune with nature, serve others.  I’m pretty sure that I want to volunteer at a hospice.  Speaking of death.

I mean, honestly, what is more fascinating, rich and true than death?  People who are dying are teetering right on the edge of the Mystery.  And people who are teetering right on the edge of the Mystery…are REAL.  Also they need extra courage and support.  What is it to die????  I want to know.  What is it to LIVE?  What is it to love fully without condition?  Asking these questions, I suddenly feel my heart come alive.  My solar plexus, too.  I might just burst.

I wish I could be normal, like my friend Shelly.  She is living the quintessential American dream… except she’s actually present and awake to splash and bask in it… She has a career that is great service to many and she loves it, she is joyously married, pregnant with her first child (she was MADE to be a mother!!!), she and her man own their house in the mellow town of Bend, Oregon.  And get THIS~ both HER parents, and her hubby’s parents just moved to Bend to be close to their newest incarnation of family.  They basically magnetized their extended families (who they have great relationships with) right into their own back yard!  All of this blows my mind.  Like here I am down in Oakland, flailing around like a confused though wildly blessed mess, and meanwhile, she’s up in Oregon having the easiest, most loving and joyful time of life.  I wonder if a life like that would bore an artistic, poetic, cosmic explorer like me… I guess we all have our dharma and our karma and our Destinies…

I suppose if I could visualize the life I dream of living, I could certainly live it… but I’m so moody and whimsical that my fancies shift with the winds.  Sheesh, I just got up to pee and you know how I have a habit of dancing behind the closed bathroom door?  Well, today, I crumbled into a fountain of tears instead.  I guess it’s the same thing, really… a raw and unbridled expression of the heart.

And as much as all my outer world, ego visions change like weather, my thirst for God remains the same and that’s all that really matters to me anyway.  I just had some deep seated notion that some day, life would get easy.  I guess the day it gets easy is the day I choose peace.  The day that I am present and wide awake in wonder, reverence and gratitude.  Could that day be today????

Sorrow, Impermanence and Yearning

I’m still kinda disoriented from all the crying I did this morning.  I guess because I’m still not even quite sure exactly why I am so sad today.  There’s something so freeing about crying without such a concrete story about WHY.  And with that, Athena proceeded to launch into reasons… mostly in an attempt to find something previously unseen within herself.

It was Mykael’s birthday yesterday, remember?  Well, he spent the day with a broken heart (I guess mostly because he isn’t where he wants to be in his life).  The birthday boy had been dreaming of an afternoon mushroom trip at Tennessee Valley beach in Marin… but a large, unsightly monster began to nibble voraciously at the afternoon.  We planned to leave at two.  Two came and went.  Then three slipped inconspicuously through the cracks…  People often say that Mykael is the perfect man for me.  Sometimes I agree.  But sometimes I think it’s fucking nuts to be with a man who tends to be as emotionally volatile as me.  We both embody the quintessential artistic temperament.  It can be intense.  I often find myself wishing that one of us was more “normal”… you know, stable, balanced… in our next lives he can be an accountant and I’ll be the milkmaid!  HA!  Needless to say we drowned together in indecision and heart ache and ended up just going to Whole Foods for a loaf of bread, six cans of coconut milk, a jar of crunchy, unsalted almond butter, and Mykael got himself this cute little chocolate chip cookie sandwich with chocolate ganashe in the middle. (Why is sugar such a compelling substitute for love and happiness???)

By then it was four thirty pm… What in the heck to do?  Since we were close to the gym in down town Oakland, we decided to go for a quickie rock climb.  Life according to Athena= when in doubt, move your body.  Felt good.  At least in my world, the invisible, heavy weight became slightly less debilitating.  Then we went to dinner at our new favorite restaurant.  I’m gonna let you guess… That’s one way he and I are compatible~ We both have the creature of habit gene, and like to really get intimate with a certain place, the people, the food… we mostly order the exact same thing every time.  And strangely, we most always agree on what we fancy to put in our mouths.

When we landed at Boot and Shoe Service, our fragile psyches seemed to be spreading their wings, poised to take flight.  How could they not?  Even in the still vibrant six thirty pm light, the candles flickered, promising romance and enchantment.  The restaurant bustled with beautiful humans, both the servers and patrons.  At the time, I didn’t realize it, but the overflowing basket of fresh, shiny spring onions impressed themselves heavily upon my mind.  I can see them so clearly right now.  I’ve noticed this new trend in the super hip, shi-shi restaurants… you know, the ones that use local, organic ingredients… where the wealthy-ish, self proclaimed “foodies” go to get their munch on… I’ve noticed that the trend is to display the fruits and vegetables du jour in showy baskets and bowls right out on the counter that divides the cooking area from the dining area.  It’s like a little altar to the food.  I like it.  Boot and Shoe does it.  Brilliant idea to let people behold the innate artistry of the food they are about to consume!

Suddenly, I realized, uh-oh… we are about to eat pizza and drink wine (only a dinky glass, but still…) and then, since when it comes to eating, Mykael can be such a dog, he’ll eat whatever is in front of him… he’ll fill himself to the brim with carby, doughy ness.  Then we’ll get home and he’ll be an immobilized lump and be too comatosed to make love.  I tried to be tactful and gracious and even inviting as I expressed this concern.  I was delighted when he said I could delve out his portion of pizza!  Chicka-chicka-bowm-bow!  The night just got even better.  I was in the mood for lllllove!  Yeah!  But then came dessert.  Boooo.  We ordered the chocolate cake (come on, you can skip dessert any other night, but…) and then, since it was his bday, they gave us a bowl of Strauss vanilla soft serve with olive oil and sea salt on the hiz-ouse.  Damn, it was SO delicious!  Would you ever think of eating [vanilla] ice cream with olive oil and sea salt?!  You should, because it was heaven on a stick!  Anyway, I totally lost interest in the boring, dry cake as a result, so Mykael polished off the whole slice plus a bunch of ice cream and my heart winced and crinkled.  I thought if the pizza didn’t sink his ship, all this dessert sure would.  Enter pouty Athena, stage left.  The littlest thing can flip my switch.  I’m not quite proud of it, but more fascinated.

We walked home the scenic route through the rose garden. (Maybe we could burn a little of that excess sugar and make some room for sweet lovin’)  Exploding rainbow blossoms, recklessly full, patiently wide open as twilight began to lure their petaled innocence into her dark belly.  Birds sang a melancholy dirge to the inward folding of this day, which will never be lived again.  Already slipping back into the pit of disappointment, once home, I got an e-mail from E*.  He told me that he felt himself closing off to me.  That sitting down to write to me, he mostly found himself staring blankly at the glowing screen.  Reading this, my already heavy heart sunk below my inner horizon.  Then Mykael and I climbed into his bed and he confessed that he felt energized enough, but he felt all this pressure to perform, which sucked for him.  Yeah.  I can see how he would feel that.  And honestly, I’m sure that if I was feeling strong and generous and unattached, I probably could have opened my heart and my body and spilled gratuitous lusciousness all over him and inevitably gotten boned immaculate, like I yearned to be… but instead I opted to respond to his confession by remaining pouty and disapproving and distant.  Ladies, learn from my mistakes.  This behavior might feel satisfying in the short term, because you get to be indulgent, impulsive and gloriously RIGHT… but in the longer than seven seconds term, this addiction to pouting and punishing and staying closed SUCKS.

I fell into a downward spiraling trap, imagining that our sex drives are sorely mismatched and if we stay together forever, I am destined to a life of perpetual sexual unfulfillment.  Sure seems like it these days.  In the beginning of our relationship, he wanted to have so much more sex.  Now he mostly wants to cuddle.  I haven’t even hit my sexual peak yet.  This thought sent me to hell.  How on earth will that work?  I can’t stand feeling disappointed and sexually rejected so often.  It fucking blows.  But certainly not even remotely biblically… unfortunately.  Did they have such a thing as blow jobs back in biblical times?  The Christians would say no, but the pagans would put their hands in the air and say “whoop-whoop!”

Anyway, we fell asleep together in half baked openness, but with a thick, filmy residue of bummer.  I hate going to bed aching.  Because inevitably, I wake up aching.  I felt so sad that he was so disheartened on his birthday, and even more sad that I couldn’t just make myself, my desires, attachments, needs disappear for the day and just be for HIM only.  On top of that, I’m reading this book, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, by Huraki Murakami, and he describes some very graphic world war II brutality in it, such as a man witnessing another man be skinned alive, and soldiers being ordered to kill all the carnivores in the zoo.  I read it first thing in the morning and I probably shouldn’t because I feel it all way too deeply, which only exacerbates all the other aching I partake in.  Woops.

It just seems like there is no way to reckon with the perpetual imperfection of human life.  No matter what, seasons keep sweeping us along.  Not just the biblical seasons, I mean life and death on every level, in every moment.  Impermanence.  Hope.  Tragedy.  Revelation.  Yearning.  Today in A Course in Miracles, the lesson instructs us to marinate in gratitude.  Sigh.  It’s a good day for that.  There is so much to love in this life.  ESPECIALLY in the face of such startling impermanence and imperfection.