New Hampshire!

July 11th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Spiritual | Travel - (0 Comments)

In which there’s travel!

We went to New Hampshire! In a plane!

Air plane!

We stayed in a hotel! This was the view!

The view

I wrote about it in my traveler’s notebook!

Traveler's Notebook

Amma’s programs were in another hotel, so I had to walk back and forth twice a day! My Google Fit app told me I walked over 10k steps per day! Here’s a frond I saw while walking one night!

Tendril

Here’s a food I ate!

Ashram food!

Flying is kind of exhausting but still better than driving! Driving to New Hampshire would take forever!

Wing

The TSA is still a massive waste of the nation’s time, effort, and money!

(The Amma experience, as ever, was supremely amazing and more or less impossible to put into words. Even my private diary sounds like a cross between the parts in Yoga Vashista where Devi and the king’s wife time travel extensively, and some mildly drunk Kerouac. The outcome, though, was a profound deepening of Self, an indescribable release of stress, and a renewed desire to continue pursuing meditation, japa, and scripture.)

Summer reading list

May 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Reading | Sci-fi | Spiritual - (0 Comments)

In which I’m not Bill Gates, but I have a book list, too!

I’ve finally started Cloud Atlas. I bought it months and months ago and it’s just been sitting five screens deep on my Kindle Paperwhite:

It is absolutely goddamned brilliant. No question.

A Calamitous Chinese Killing is still in the pile. Inspector Singh is adorable, as ever. I’m about halfway through:

The Dark Monk is next. I bought it because the book’s design looked cool. The cover is black and gold, and the pages are torn. It’s translated, so hopefully it’ll be a good read, as sometimes translations can be a little flat:

Contact, by Carl Sagan, because I really like the movie and I’ve never read the book:

Still reading my abridged 1970 copy of Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna with the gilded ink on the spine and cover and the ribbon bookmark. Might be reading it again, actually; I really don’t know if I’ve ever finished it, as I frequently set it down for months then just open it at random:

The Outpost, by Mike Resnick. Came part of a sci-fi humble bundle that remains, to date, mostly un-read:

The Shelf Life of Happiness. May not finish this one, depends on how it unwinds:

The Heretics of De’Ath:

The Sheep Look Up, because it was a Nebula finalist:

A Gitanjali re-read. I bought a physical copy because it’s so beautiful and maybe the power will go out or something and I’ll need something that’s not electronic to read:

There’s more unread stuff on my Paperwhite and on paper both, but these are the titles I care about now. My reading habits have become so erratic in the past couple of years that we’ll see how many of these I actually finish, and how many non-listed books I’ll read instead.

What’s on your summer reading list? Anything I’d like?

My Amma Doll

May 15th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Introspection | Spiritual - (0 Comments)

In which I write about a toy. A doll. A temple idol, a spiritual tool.

I’ve had an Amma doll for a long time, and over the years I’ve collected all the outfits and extras, and I keep it all in an old wicker picnic-style basket. I can dress her in her whites, or as Devi, Krishna, or Kali.

There’s also a nightgown, socks, a swim dress, perfumes, a sun dress I made, and a tiny Home Depot apron (in case she ever wants to do some yard work or something). Garlands, necklaces, earrings, belts, a mala. A hairbrush.

There used to be a sweater, but apparently I’ve lost it.

Amma doll

I’ve read treatises written by those who don’t yet grasp what spirituality is or what it’s for, droning on and on about the phenomenon of white women and their Amma dolls, trying to make all kinds of Freudian implications about infantilization and adult women “playing” with dolls, as if there were something wrong with play, something sinister about child-like joy and absorption.

Yeah, yeah, I get it. There is evil in the world (although this is not it), and the dolls creep you out. Whatever. Your mistakes are your own. Or are they?

Because the fact is, this doll isn’t a Barbie, empty of meaning. It’s not a collection of plastic crap that symbolizes only imperialism and consumption. This doll is a profoundly useful spiritual tool, whether anyone who thinks they’re weird is capable of understanding that or not.

When you’re nearly always apart from your guru, being able to play with and cuddle a toy, one imbued with layers of complex spiritual and philosophical information, is a fucking oasis in a desert of streaming services, social networking, avarice, empty affluence, fear, and anxiety.

The process of handling the doll focuses the mind on the guru. Changing the costumes over time creates deep curiosity — why does Kali have a garland of skulls? what issues are there to consider about religion and violence? is suffering different than violence? is death meaningful? what the fuck is a demon: is it a literal bad entity, or a representation of one’s own flaws? is the mind a demon? Does Krishna’s flute, like, symbolize something? maybe Krishna just liked to play the flute? does it have to be meaningful? What’s the difference between information and meaning? what’s it feel like to be enlightened? aren’t the enlightened supposed to be without preference? so why the flute and not something else? — which drives self-education and awakens the understanding that all this shit represents something.

Kali Ma

These symbols are not just arbitrary foreign cultural weirdness. They have meaning. They peel like an onion.

When you see your guru for two days a year, and spend maybe 4 minutes of those two days actually with her, you need a conduit, a way to get back, a helpful symbol. When you’re losing your shit because you don’t know what the fuck is going on with your life or what you are or are supposed to be doing, you grab your Amma doll and you have a good cry.

Or, as I frequently do, you bitch God out for this stupid reality in which one has to have a mind capable of suffering in order to want to become enlightened: you cannot even want enlightenment without suffering first! It’s built-in! What the fuck!

Brahman dwells within itself, forever content. In the deeps, God isn’t even aware of us. If he’s the brilliant scientist in the state-of-the-art lab, we’re some random bacteria in the sludge around the drain in the unused third sub-basement he doesn’t even know about.

This occasionally makes me so infuriated I bitch and hiss at my doll, because it’s easier to have a conversational focus in the form of a small item than it is to try to somehow address the entirety of the manifest universe at once, because seriously, where would you even look?

My Amma doll

You look at your doll, as a representative of That, and you complain. You lay out your grievances. You pitch a fucking fit. You say you know everything that exists is a manifestation of an inherent quality of the Lord’s, and you know that selfishness, stupidity, and greed are just as much expressions of God as generosity, intelligence, beauty, and sacrifice, and that’s cool, but: suffering! Why is there suffering? Why even manifest as apparent discrete entities with minds of their own when that is itself literally the cause of suffering? What’s the point of us even being here to experience shit when it’s frequently so awful? Why even do this in the first place? How can You be loving if this manifestation with all its inherent bullshit is a fundamental expression of what You are?!

And then you get the brain dump. God, Guru answers. No, you don’t see visions or hear voices, but suddenly you have understandings that you didn’t have before. Knowledge just appears in your head, intact. (I’ve noticed when reading Matruvani that devotees’ stories are often like this. They’re waiting and waiting for whatever outcome they think they want, and eventually they get freaked out and complain to the altar or a photo of idol or guru, and then, and only then, at the final hour, the thing, the outcome, the whatever, occurs.) I think that it’s perfectly fine and okay and even encouraged to natter and nag and bitch at the Beloved. Amma even says several times in various books that one should have a running commentary and be always thinking of and talking to one’s beloved deity. Don’t gossip with others, tell the beloved. Don’t complain to others, tell the beloved. Don’t suffer needlessly and stoically, tell the beloved.

The whole point of and thread running throughout is about where the mind should be. The mind should be not on worldly bullshit, but on any symbol that will eventually lead it inward. Apparently this is called pratyahara, and is the process of withdrawing the mind from distraction and turning it inward toward its source. It’s a pain in the ass, in one way, because it’s hard and tedious and sometimes it hurts. But it’s also effortless, in the sense that at some point you realize that there is no effort, only grace. Because you feel like you’re making effort but you eventually come to know you’re not: you go years sometimes without effort, and then suddenly great strides are made. Your heart is arid and then the rains come, and you’re not the rain. You reach for That when the guru wants you to, and at no other time.

Another irrationality, that, as most of it is in this arduous process of destroying the world, and yet once you know it, you know it. Since there’s nothing to measure, you can’t prove it, but you have experienced it and know it to be true. They say if you take one step toward the guru, the guru will take a thousand toward you, but you also know that shit does not move at all without the guru doing it, because you’re not the doer, you’re not even real. You are your mind, and your mind is a reflection of consciousness.

Just like you know God’s not an asshole but doesn’t really find human suffering all that compelling, in the same way a human being does not find the death of a few skin cells all that compelling, and yet, by the same token, some aspect of God does shit like takes birth and gets nailed to a cross like Christ or dies of cancer like Ramakrishna or crucifies herself in her darshan chair like Amma in order to point us in the right direction. They come and They come and They ever come, these incarnations, and They show infinite love and beauty and grace and They say, look, I’m suffering my balls off here, because hey-what, the suffering of the mind and body is irrelevant. And let me teach you why.

And it’s utterly impossible to encompass, but there it is. The whole thing’s a huge joke somehow. You’re not even here, your you-ness isn’t real, it’s a soup of consciousness your mind is building the whole of reality out of, and your mind is not even conscious itself. It’s a construct! It merely reflects! I’m waiting for the punch line!

Terror is the mind realizing you know it’s not real, and that you’re becoming willing to surrender it to That in order to escape suffering, which is also not real.

I’m waiting for the punch line!

In which I feel both uplifted and awkward.

Once in awhile, I fall accidentally into a religious conversation with a devout Christian about the experience of the practice of religion. And she says stuff, and I say stuff, and she’s pleased with my insight and depth of understanding, and we’re really grooving and having a meaningful chat about life and love and suffering and learning and keeping covenant and watching the mind and all that grooviness, and then suddenly I realize I’m fucking trapped.

Because by understanding her subtlest spiritual work, I’ve more or less “led” her to believe I’m also a Christian, which I’m really, really not, and it’d be awkward if I revealed that I’m a so-called heathen, and I end up feeling kinda bad about it, and then I start fearing I’ll be asked when I was saved or born again or baptized or whatever, because I won’t know what to say without ruining the fine fellow-feeling that I feel and know is well and truly earned.

I enjoy talking to devotees of any stripe, but Christians can get upset to learn that their little two-thousand year old, truncated, gutted religion’s precepts are not exactly philosophically hard to get one’s brain around, or that the work they’re doing — everything from forbearance to surrender to love in action to devotion to all the rest of it — is known to earnest followers of every religion ever, even the religions they hate or believe to be false, and that the only things unique to Christianity are irrelevant not only to all non-Christians but to the actual practices of religion itself (because most stuff unique to Christianity is actually politics, not spirituality, and everybody knows it. Same for the other Abrahamic branches, and a variety of other traditions, as well).

What’s most interesting, really, is how a philosophy as broken as modern western Christianity still has such passionate, fervent followers with so much bhakti (loving devotion toward God) and intimacy with their guru, whom they call Lamb of God, without irony, realizing not at all that God takes birth repeatedly because He’s fucking INFINITE and unbounded and can do literally everything, and does. (That in and of itself essentially proves the fundamentals of Vedanta, really, but you can’t say that because it would be more unkind than useful.)

I mean, really. The very idea that God mandated only one opportunity is contrary to the concept of a loving God entirely. You can’t have it both ways: either your God is loving and absolute, or He’s a jerk who wants to damn entire swathes of His own creation.

I got into a big ol’ conversation with a customer at work tonight after I fixed her system and alleviated her worries about how it was functioning. I learned about some big parts of her life, of what she’s going through now, from marriage problems to serious health issues, and we had some really deep conversation about right action, ego, spiritual work, fear, and love. I felt really grateful for the connection with a total stranger, and she averred she did, too, but at the end of conversation I knew she was just this close to asking me when I found Jesus, which, in the sense she means, as far as I understand “finding Jesus,” I haven’t.

Well, actually, I have, but not in a way that I could articulate without using language not typical to Christianity. Have I had an experience of Christ? Sure, yes, but I consider Jesus to be but one flower on an entire tree of enlightened avatars of God, born of Self-effort to reach us all, where and when and as we are, for the purpose of revealing, through their lives’ example, our own indwelling nature as That. Persons who have never been exposed to knowledge of Christ — for instance, every human life that occurred before His own, and millions since — are not doomed to “hell,” a metaphorical, and not literal, place. To think they are is to limit the limitless, to project upon God the flaws of our own self-made minds, and to reduce the infinite into our finite.

I’ve spoken intimately with several Christian women over the years, and their astonishment at my grasp of subtle concepts is very near universal. It blows their minds that a religion with thousands of icons knows things they thought were Christian Mysterees, because their religion teaches them that all other religions are fundamentally wrong.

I’m pretty sure that any religion that calls itself the only path is deeply suspect, because it’s obviously ridiculous to posit an infinite, all-knowing God The Creator And Source Of All, and then say there’s only one way to get to Him because he wasn’t clever enough to allow for the foibles of all the souls in his His beloved creation.

Some day I need to figure out how to indicate, without sounding like a pompous jerk, that I’m not Christian but do know (though I’m not a proper scholar by any stretch), a bit about the fundamentals of religious philosophies. Hmm.

Amma 2015

July 8th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Spiritual | Travel - (0 Comments)

In which there was a long-ass road trip for both of us, some hotel lounging for him, and some much-needed spiritual renewal for me.

Tuesday we slept in and then packed and drove to St. Charles, IL. It took forever, or about six hours. Checked into our hotel and slept. I was so excited to be with Amma again for the next few days, and so grateful my partner had agreed to take me again.

Wednesday was an all-day program. I got dropped off and meditated and ate Indian snacks and socialized and got darshan from Mother, who smeared my head with sandalwood paste and hugged me like crazy. It was a great darshan. (I mean, they’re all ideal by definition, but some are more enjoyable than others. The ones where you know you’re Mother’s own are the best.) I hung out with Cat for awhile; she gave me some Radiance Dairy heavy cream! I haven’t had any for, like, eight years!

I bought a few things from the bookstore; a tee, a mini altar, a rudraksha necklace. I watched Mother give darshan.

Cat caught a ride with me when Scott came to pick me up and we all three stopped at Los Burritos Mexicanos #3 for dinner. I still can’t figure out what’s in that second green salsa of theirs; Cat thinks cilantro is a main ingredient. Whatever it is, it’s amazing.

Thursday I got up fairly early and went to the morning program, mostly to meditate and get something to eat. Didn’t get darshan. In the afternoon Scott picked me up and we saw a matinee of Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out and did some shopping (he got some shirts and I got a dress and a long-sleeved dark blue tee from Goodwill). In the evening, I told Scott he had to get darshan for his own good, whether he liked it or not, because the spiritual health of the family is the woman’s duty, so he had to park at the ashram and come in to the hall to get a token with me. Then I let him leave; bless his heart he came back at one in the morning for our hugs. (His darshan this year was nothing like the love fest She lavished on him last year, though.) Then we went back to the hotel and went to bed.

Friday we slept through the morning program on purpose, because I’d decided to stay up all night for Devi Bhava (since I haven’t done so in a few years and really needed to). We ate at Corfu, saw another matinee, and I was back at the ashram by seven, just in time for the meditation and the puja.

Amma (Sri Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi) in Devi Bhava

When darshan began I hung out with Tahmi — she laid an awesome theory on me about Calvinism and why so many people actively hate the poor — and we ate dinner together before her next seva shift. Most of the night I sat right up front and stared at the Holy Mother of the Universe and sang along to the bhajans and in general just basked in the presence of an Avatar. I’m half-certain She gave me a few looks; I’m also half-certain She did no such thing because why ever would She be sharing looks with me.

After my darshan I sat on stage for a bit, and when I was asked to move for other devotees I mentally asked if I could sit behind the kalari. The response I got was a clear “no, you should go” and I briefly felt sorry for myself until I saw that the next act up was the folky Michigan satsang duo I’ve always complained about! So I walked out to the back 40 and had a cigarette and realized from the singing of the birds that it was almost dawn already.

After a cup of chai, I went back to my spot (on the floor under a monitor next to the band) and watched Devi give darshan and sang along to the bhajans. I’d somehow ended up in exactly the right spot. Well after sunrise, other devotees began to crowd around me, so much so that I ended up with my shoes and my purse in my lap, smushed up against the velvet rope marking the edge of the musicians’ area.

There were a few first feedings, a first letters, and then a sacred thread ceremony for a young Brahmin boy. Then I sat and watched most of the devotees parade past Mother while she showered them with petals. I had an absolutely perfect position for the very end of the program’s chants, with an ideal view of Her. I did a lot of crying. She made a face at me.

Scott picked me up from the ashram at 8:30, the time we’d pre-arranged and which turned out to be exactly the right time (he’d come into the hall to find me just as Mother was emerging from the kalari to leave). We napped at the hotel until 11, then loaded out and headed for home. I finished my leftovers from Corfu (spinach and feta omelet on rye with a slice of tomato and leftover coleslaw from Scott’s plate) and dozed a bit in the back of the truck. At a gas stop I got back in front; eventually we ate in Hixton, WI; we finally arrived home at a little past six.

The apartment smelled like ass, even though I’d left two windows cracked specifically to avoid it. (Old buildings: what can you do? There’s funk in the walls.) A quarter of an hour of wide-open windows, a fan, and a stick of incense and everything was back to normal.

The place wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d remembered; most everything is unpacked and it’s really close to totally-moved-in and comfortable. I took an afternoon nap but woke up fairly refreshed at dusk. Scott reiterated his affection for the new place (he likes the open plan and the paint colors the most) and then proceeded to use a tape measure to prove that the dresser actually would, in fact, fit in the bedroom! (We moved it in there today.) With the dresser out of the living room, maybe we can keep the recliner after all!

Our first night home, I laid in bed and felt like my head was full of noise and agitation and, well, bullshit. Many years ago I felt the compulsion to say my mantra at the anahatachakra (heart) chakra. Later, this compulsion moved to the ajna (forehead) chakra and it’s been there off and on for years. That night, it became the sahasrara (crown) chakra, a compulsion I’ve literally never felt before. Not only the noise of my mind, but also a brilliant light, was blowing out of it as I laid there and said my mantra while drifting off to sleep. I find it impossible to believe that my awareness has traveled so far; if it really has, then all that so-called advanced chakra stuff must literally be the absolute beginning of spiritual life and not the esoteric knowledge I’d always thought it to be. Well, and also, it says a lot for being the devotee of an Avatar because you basically don’t do anything at all but make the slightest effort and yet you move along the path anyway, basically in spite of yourself.

Had some gut distress during the days of programs; woke up the second night with pain. Was able to eat just fine, though. Last soreness was the first night home, then everything back to normal. One always feels like these things are associated with something Amma is doing, because the symptoms of whatever it is occur only on the days you’re with Her; they never extend to time before or after. On the other hand, if they are, there’s no way to understand how a fussy lower GI tract has anything to do with anything, or a cold, or a fever, or a headache, or any of the things one experiences while around Amma over the years.

I can’t remember when I first met Her, but I think it’s coming up on twenty years. Could I have met Her as early as 1995? I was living in Walla Walla and went to see Her on Fort Flagler for a retreat. Devi Bhava was in Seattle at the Scottish Rite Temple; I remember that the people I was with all pretty much wanted to go, but I knew the most important thing in my life was happening and I refused. I felt like She was somehow whirling everything together, and that She was communicating with entities that were neither embodied nor visible who had also come to get her darshan. I didn’t give a shit that my boyfriend was distressed about my rudeness nor that the people representing our ride were bored and not digging it. It didn’t matter if a few people were bored for a few hours. I had to get one more darshan from Her.

Half a year later, broken hearted and living in California, I was sitting in a cubical farm and thinking about Her endlessly and I smelled Her perfume and felt Her presence and felt incredibly soothed. Weirdly enough, I never made it around the bay to the San Ramon Ashram — I never visited there until just a few years ago…

In which many exciting changes — a move, a job change, and not one but two opportunities for travel — are afoot!

The lease is up here, and while this apartment has some incredible amenities — such as southern exposure, a gas range, amazing cross-ventilation, and a wonderful view of a park with a pond in it — it also happens to be located in a rather industrial-sized, non-walkable bedroom suburb, so we’ve recently signed a new lease for an apartment in or very near Uptown.

“Uptown” is the neighborhood directly south of downtown Minneapolis, and it’s eminently walkable as well as featuring access to Eat Street, the Midtown greenway, and lots of groceries and bars and venues.

The new place has off-street parking for Scott and a storage locker for my bike (I’m hoping), wood floors, a larger kitchen, a bathroom practically identical to the one we have here, A GAS RANGE, a residential neighborhood that will probably be quiet, and a killer location for walking and biking to stores and bars and restaurants. (Well, during the nice months of the year, anyway.)

We’re still waiting on a move-in date from the new landlord (the current tenant hasn’t moved out yet), but it should be within the next few weeks.

I gave notice at Home Depot a couple of days ago. It’s been… interesting employment for me, and required a lot of comfort zone-stretching (sharing a desk, never sitting down, limited online access, steady physical exertion, etc). I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed any of it nor that the physical component hasn’t been good for me, but I’m incredibly happy to have a concrete end date in sight (since knowing it was temporary was sometimes the only thing that kept me sane).

The very day after giving notice I got a call back from a credit union two blocks — 600 feet from door to door, as the crow flies — from the new apartment! After signing the lease I’d used Google Maps to reconnoiter the area looking for work, and lo and behold there was a job posting for a part-time teller! In the neighborhood!

How great would that be? A two-block commute to a part-time job in a quiet environment? No nights or weekends or holidays? To work when Scott’s at work? (They’re open 9-6 on weekdays and 9-12 on Saturdays. I’d never have to work two solid months of 8-hour weekend shifts again! Even if I have to work every Saturday morning forever, it would still be a thousand thousand times better than the insanity that is the home improvement warehouse retail schedule.) Had a lovely pre-interview by phone today with the credit union’s HR; I have an in-person interview at the branch next Tuesday. So excited!

If it doesn’t work out — which it might not, of course, because they don’t post the pay range even in the job description and it might be minimum wage, which I’d probably pass on even with the ideal location and nearly-ideal schedule — I think I’ll just take a couple months off and get back into some semblance of a routine.

After a year of being scheduled anywhere from 6 AM to 10 PM, seven days a week, 363 days a year, I now have nothing like regular mealtimes and am usually not hungry when I have to eat or am starving when I can’t. Sleep schedules are utterly blown, and I’ve nearly lost my ability to sleep when I have to because I’m either inappropriately not tired or totally exhausted for whatever my schedule requires of me. I’ve never really considered myself a routine-oriented person, but that might be because I always had much more of one than I’ve had this past year. Random scheduling fucking blows and I feel deep sympathy for all those who are trapped in it.

Anecdotally, the new place is two blocks — normal city blocks, not the monstrosities here in the old apartment’s neighborhood — from a 30-year old breakfast joint called The Egg and I. HOW COOL IS THAT. There is nothing that close to this apartment but grass, trees, other apartments, roads, and weeds. Oh, and a pond.

So, the Employment Of Misery is basically over, a new lease is signed, I’ve started packing, and I already have an interview for a highly desirable position in the new neighborhood. On top of that, we’re going to see Amma in Chicago in a couple of weeks, and we have plans to visit Walla Walla in mid-August for a Morgan family reunion/get-together!

Totally stoked. Now I just need to put more stuff in boxes and find something nice to wear to next week’s interview!

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:

On God

October 21st, 2012 | Posted by Mush in Introspection | Spiritual - (3 Comments)

In which there are quotes from some favorite non-fiction in my library.

The truth is that we are all inclined to flatter ourselves – despite our daily experience to the contrary – that we spend our time thinking logical, consecutive thoughts. In fact, most of us do no such thing. Consecutive thought about any one problem occupies a very small proportion of our waking hours. More usually, we are in a state of reverie — a mental fog of disconnected sense-impressions, irrelevant memories, nonsensical scraps of sentences from books and newspapers, little darting fears and resentments, physical sensations of discomfort, excitement or ease.

The mind seems to be intelligent and conscious. Yoga philosophy teaches that it is not. It has only a borrowed intelligence. The Atman is intelligence itself, is pure consciousness. The mind merely reflects that consciousness and so appears to be conscious.

The external world, even in its most beautiful appearances and noblest manifestations, is still superficial and transient. It is not the basic Reality. We must look through it, not at it, in order to see the Atman.

PatanjaliHow to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali
by Swami Prabhavananda, Christopher Isherwood, Patanjali

 
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Freedom.

August 16th, 2012 | Posted by Mush in Spiritual - (0 Comments)

What is wanted is deep inner life.

Silence the bubbling thoughts. Keep the mind cool and calm. Open yourself to higher spiritual consciousness. Feel the Divine Presence and Divine Guidance. Fix your mind at the lotus feet of the Lord. Become like a child. Speak to Him freely. Become absolutely candid, do not hide your thoughts. You cannot do so, because He is the Antaryamin (inner ruler). He watches all your thoughts. Pray for mercy, light, purity, strength, peace and knowledge. You will surely get them. You will be established in Brahmacharya.”

Practical Lessons in Yoga by Sri Swami Sivananda

Freedom is all I want, but to hope for it I feel ashamed. I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee, and that thou art my best friend, but I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room. The shroud that covers me is a shroud of dust and death; I hate it, yet hug it in love. My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy; yet when I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.”

Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

Slowly blossomed, slowly ripened in Siddhartha the realisation, the knowledge, what wisdom actually was, what the goal of his long search was. It was nothing but a readiness of the soul, an ability, a secret art, to think every moment, while living his life, the thought of oneness, to be able to feel and inhale the oneness.”

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

In which I’m finally rid of my married name!

I decided recently to get a passport. No real reason. I don’t have any travel plans, but one never knows — and I have the money just now so what the hell. Maybe I’ll get to India before I’m 50.

passportToday I went to my second appointment with the passport lady at the post office, and I gave her a bunch of paperwork and money and she made me re-do my work about three times, which is impressive considering it’s only a two-page freakin’ application and I’d already done it twice and I have a reasonably high IQ.

Halfway through the procedure, the passport lady decided they’d probably reject my application because the name on my driver license did not match the name on my divorce papers well enough. She suggested I go update my driver licence. And could I maybe possibly do it, like, right now, since she’d already put my passport application on her transmittal and she had no idea how to remove it and the paperwork has to go today?

A driver license. Before three o’clock today? Sure. What the hell. I’ll try.

So off I went to the DMV on my bike during my lunch hour. (It’s all downhill, so the ride out there was pretty okay.) I walked in the door and I kid you not: there was no line! None! Talk about support of nature: I got help immediately, which has literally NEVER HAPPENED IN THE HISTORY OF THE DMV. The mild glitches (they had to delete an old expired license from the last time I lived in Washington, plus I very nearly flunked the vision test) were neatly handled. (Note to self: get new contacts.) Less than an hour later, with my name all changed and a new temporary driver licence in my purse, I rode back to the post office. (It was all uphill.) I stopped at Taco Bell, about halfway, for a tostada because I was hungry. (Did I mention it’s all uphill?)

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