In which it really doesn’t matter where you go, because there you are.
Recently, maybe within the past couple of years, the Inner Guru appeared. Or maybe, to put it another way, I became capable of delving into mySelf enough to hear what the seers tell us has always been there. Or by the Guru’s grace — certainly not through my own merit or work — I’ve gotten enough dust off the mirror.
I have no idea how this came to be, but there it is. I can’t even describe my wonder and gratitude nor how utterly close and familiar the Inner Guru is. It sounds exactly like my own thoughts, it just knows shit I don’t, and regularly, if I’m sincere about wanting to know, dumps very large, entire concepts into my skull too subtle to be codified in language. I’ll just be riding my bike with questions about how and why and what for, and BOOM, there it is: I now know something I didn’t a moment before. It’s heart-breakingly loving and sweet and awe-inspiring and miraculous, and other times I forget completely about it. Because I’m human. Which is to say, my ego is still ascendant enough to make it impossible to sustain the wonder that will eventually destroy it.
I work retail in a gigantic industrial building with concrete floors and beeping forklifts and cutting equipment and horrible lighting and multiple incoming lines that ring incessantly. It’s a mile away from my apartment, over a giant interstate overpass not really designed with pedestrians in mind, and I often have to walk both to and from work, as well as untold miles inside the building each shift. I’m in my mid-40’s and my feet never stop hurting and don’t seem at all inclined to acclimate to my non-desk status. My bicycle has a flat tire and I don’t have access to a compressor — well, I do if you count that gas station a mile away in the opposite direction, but I’m not inclined to walk the thing that far to fill it up only to discover it’s a fast leak.
Anyway, I’m being scheduled more hours than I want and my feet hurt and the roads are scary and indelicate and the job is loud and indelicate and I’m exhausted all the time and my brain is buffeted with noise and the ugliness of modern American values and my ego is all up in this trip about how much I’m suffering and how I’m not comfortable and not getting what I want but truth be told I actually like the job when I’m doing it and a lot of the people seem really great and there’s climate control and anyway you have to do something and I’m working on my humility and getting to serve and I’m trudging my tired aching body down these sidewalks on my way to a job I don’t want to go to that’s just going to make me more sore and more tired and more wiped out from the sheer volume of input and I’m spinning around and around in my head just trying to solve this whole suffering thing because it’s not lost on me that these are truly first world goddamned problems and finally about halfway across the overpass in the hot sunshine and choking exhaust I just give up and ask, “How the fuck do I feel better? What do I do?”
And the Beloved within promptly replies with, “Sit here [and on “here” there’s the indication of the heart center], and let the organs of perception and action operate themselves.”
Sit in the heart and witness. Let perception and action do themselves. There are, after all, entire laws of nature that define their behaviors. You are not them. They are not you. Let them do what they do. Understand?
Well, yeah. I do. Sort of. I do know that. Or I know about that, which is not the same thing, of course. I’ve read the Gita dozens of times, in as many different translations. But I still don’t know what the fuck the three gunas really are. Or what my dharma is. I mean, lower-middle-class white chick who drinks and sleeps a lot can’t be Dharma, can it? Even in Kali yuga it seems unlikely.
And so I’ve been trying to do that for a couple of weeks now. Trying and trying. Trying to figure out how replicate that spacious, contented silence I experience around Amma, thinking a lot about dispassion and what it really means, trying to quit bitching at my boyfriend about my feet and my fatigue and irritation at being scheduled 35 rather than 20 hours a week (because I really do believe you should treat your lover better than the strangers that are your customers and coworkers), trying to step back from my identification with and habit of having preferences that are, essentially, random and irrational. Doing japa and trying to serve and trying, just trying. And suffering at the jitteryness of it, like a radio station out of range, at my inability to not feel so sorry for myself.
Remember Ram Dass? That book Be Here Now? I bought a used copy at Powell’s Books when I was in my early 20’s. It was even signed. I enjoyed reading it, and kept it for a really long time because I thought it brought me some kind of importance, having a signed copy of Be Here Now, for fuck’s sake, but really my main takeaway from it then was that drugs are okay and you need a guru but you’re not cool enough to, like, go to India and find one, because you’re provincial and you didn’t go to Harvard like all these LSD trippin’ Western devotees. I have no idea what I might take away from it if I were to re-read it now, beyond nodding energetically at the part where he says the guru comes when the devotee is ready. Hell, I’ve still never gotten to India, but Mother came to me.
Well, Ram Dass is still writing and still pointing the way, even after a stroke. I bought Polishing The Mirror and read it and the advice to just sink into Self, to just keep gently coming back when you lose your shit, reminded me of something really important. Mainly that YOU ARE NOT DOING WELL, LITTLE SEEKER, WHEN YOU ALLOW YOUR EGO TO CONGRATULATE YOU FOR STOICALLY ENDURING YOUR SUFFERING. You’re not purifying, you’re not burning karma, you’re just feeling smug that you have decided — because that’s what happened, you decided — you’re miserable and you’re not bitching about it. Is this really a good use of time? Of your life?
And today I had to get up earlier than I wanted to, and when that irritation started I just sank below it, didn’t judge it, just sat in my heart and let it be. And my feet still fucking HURT but instead of thinking “my feet hurt” I just observed that there was pain and that it was okay and I didn’t have to engage my ego in having preferences about it, I just let it be what it was. And I kept gently returning to the heart while doing my morning stuff of coffee and eggs, and didn’t get involved with the whole OH MAN I REALLY DON’T WANT TO GO TO WORK AND I’M TIRED AND MY FEET HURT AND I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT AND WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME THAT I CAN’T GET A JOB MORE FITTING FOR A 45-YEAR OLD TECH WORKER, even though I certainly tried to get involved, oh fuck yes I did, habits die hard, and I sat in the heart while walking to work and didn’t do the martyr thing (much), and the weather was gorgeous and I nearly got lost in the flowers I don’t think I’ve ever even seen before in front of that giant Alianz building even though I’ve walked down that long block dozens of times. And at work I tried to see the souls inside the humans I interacted with rather than the meat.
And it was much less tiring. I mean, my hips and feet still hurt, but I’m just letting that exist rather than investing in it. It just is. And I came home and took a nap. And I have the next two days off to be quiet and NOT WALK TEN MILES IN SIX HOURS. And I had a few moments of really deep light and love, just walking around in the biggest of the big box stores doing my little job/doing my little practice/being here now/sitting in my heart, witnessing, letting the organs of perception and action operate themselves.
I mean, it’s not continuous, but it turns out you don’t try to do it, you just Yoda that shit. When you realize you’ve stood up, SIT BACK DOWN. IN THE HEART. That’s it. No judgement.
There are some great meditations in the book. There’s an expansive meditation that’s really great (reminds me in part of the original IAM technique), and the one on the breath I’m doing like japa, of course, because I rarely ever formally sit for meditation but tend to just do the techniques that attract me while engaged in activity, which Ram Dass actually discusses — maybe some of us just are spiritual debutantes by nature. I mean, it’s never been lost on me that it’s better to dig one deep well to get the water rather than a hundred shallow ditches, but I’ve never been able to want regular formal practice even though I would self-describe with utter sincerity myself as having been applying practices in earnest in non-formal ways at least since I meet Mother, if not long before (albeit in stumbling, sophomoric ways). I even ask Mother every year to help me keep a formal practice, and the desire just doesn’t arise.
But years ago I prayed to always be reminded to do japa, and my prayer was answered. There were many, many little nudges to do japa. Now it goes on by itself half the time I’m awake. It’s often going when I drift off or wake up. I also have a little thing I do to sort of… wipe thoughts away, but I don’t know how to describe it. It just occurred to me at Amma a couple of years ago, and when the mind-thing is just freaking out and chattering and not being at all useful I can wipe it clean. It’s often only for a split second, but that’s better than nothing. Especially when your head’s being a jerk.
And now I’m going to go drink wine and read period romances. Because I’m human. A human being, and a human doing. Dying the cloth, dying the cloth.
Om Namah Shivaya.
UPDATE: Here’s something I found today on meditation, and maybe it’s not always sitting with the eyes closed and the spine straight: