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.)

Breakfast

April 17th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Life | Moving | Travel | Weather - (0 Comments)

In which there’s a blurb.

I slept really late. So late that it’s 2:19 and I’ve only been up long enough to shower, cook and eat, and make the bed! I’m not even dressed!

My hair’s clean, though, and this was delicious:

Breakfast

I have no idea why I thought I needed twelve hours of sleep, but I’ve always slept a lot and still do (more because I can, I think, than because I need to). I keep seeing research about sleep and metabolism and circadian rhythms and the effect of artificial light thereon, and I feel like, well, I’m lucky enough to have such an incredibly open schedule that I might as well just sleep until I wake up, because God knows I’m not limiting my exposure to artificial light at all.

I mean, we’ve got blackout curtains on all the windows, sure, but we live in Uptown where it is never dark, and between the two of us we have at least, what, five tablets, and two phones? And that’s not even counting two dual-monitored desktop computers, two laptops, and a television. It’s literally wall-to-wall blue light up in this bitch, is what I’m sayin’. Scott is perpetually sleep-deprived, but then, who isn’t at his age.

Anyway, it’s gorgeous outside, so after I’ve finished my coffee I’m going to do the dishes, make up a quick grocery list, and head off to the store. Pretty sure the bike needs new tires but hopefully it’ll hold enough air to get to Cub and back with something for dinner.

The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and the tree out front has gone from only the merest hint of buds to actual greenery in the past six days:

Finally

I really need to get outside a bunch in these next few weeks, because after that it’ll be summer and I’ll be in the bathtub crying with a bag of ice for four months straight. I was so miserable last summer that I’m actually considering one of those floor A/C units. (I’ve also been half-assedly apartment hunting, but moving is such a bitch, and the expense is daunting this year because we’re booked for two vacations: Amma in July, and then my grandmother’s 95th as well as the Wendover-Briggs wedding in September.) They’re, like, three hundred bucks or something, but anything to be feel less terrifically awful during the hot months. This apartment is an oven.

Well, coffee’s drunk and the goddamned dishes aren’t going to do themselves!

Traveler’s Notebook

December 8th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Nerd | Travel - (1 Comments)

In which, yet again, I become what I judge. This time was quicker than usual! (It took twenty years for me to end up fat and the owner of a fake Christmas tree, but only weeks to end up with a Traveler’s Notebook!)

Behold. My Traveler’s Notebook.

Traveler's Notebook

This object has totally captured my imagination. I’m not really sure why, as it’s just a piece of leather and some elastic, a tin clamp, a waxed thread bookmark, paper, and accessories, but I adore it. (No hyperbole. Sometimes I just sit and hold it and look at it.)

So elegant and clever. So satisfying. The smell of the leather, the feel of the paper. The thoroughly modern faux-rusticity.

You feel as if, should the world end, you’d carry this with you always, and scribble in it with the smallest and most cramped hand to save what little paper was left. Future feral generations would marvel at the even-cut edges, the fineness of the paper, the way the leather was treated. The impossibly complicated dried-out old plastic-and-steel pen, and the precision-milled pen clip. It would be scarred and bent, but beautiful, and you’d have put all you knew in it for them.

IMG_20161208_142718

(Of course, what will really happen is that when this journaling generation goes, there will be millions upon millions of these things, stuffed with inspirational stickers and craft paper flowers and tabs and clips and cutesy drawings and a personal, woman’s-eye view into life way back in the teens, unearthed in boxes in grandmas’ houses and glutting the antiques market and whatever will pass for eBay by then. If they come back in style, like Polaroid cameras have now, people will probably buy them and gut them and re-use the by-then antique leather covers.)

I got the notebook itself (a “fauxdori,” made by a company called September Leather) for free, using points from my Chase Amazon card. (I can’t tell you how much I’ve spent on accessories since it’s completely embarrassing.) I soon restrung it with a Midori repair kit, even though the original elastics were just fine, to make it look more like a Midori.

Notebooks

I’ve purchased hand-made inserts, official Midori inserts. Pencil boards, kraft folders, pens. Colored pencils, brush pens, a couple of stencils. Book darts, washi tape, a repair kit, double sided tape, pen holder clips, and Midori post-its designed to fit inside.

"minimum"

And, if all that weren’t enough, I also bought a passport-sized Midori, plus a few accessories for it, too.

Pens

I use the little one as a wallet. It’s the most expensive wallet I’ve ever carried, and it’s not even a wallet! But it does hold one’s passport perfectly, plus money and cards.

I looooooooooove it.

The big one, the standard size, is my daily journal. And sketchbook. And spiritual journal. And place for lists and to-dos, and a catch-all for random bits of paper, and post-its dispenser, and pen holder, and it just looks cool and feels cool and is fun to handle.

Traveler's Notebook

It’s really nice to journal by hand again; I haven’t done so regularly since high school. It’s different than writing online or even typing, and I’m enjoying it very much. My wretched handwriting is slowly improving, and I’ve begun to sketch and doodle, too — something I’ve never really done.

Sometimes I sketch things from books I’m reading; other sketches are scenes from what I’m watching on TV. I have no talent for art but it’s fun, and feels better than wasting time scrolling endlessly on social media.

Matilda

I discovered the Traveler’s Notebook by accident when looking up Bullet Journaling. And here’s where the judgement comes in.

In August, I posted this innocuous entry about the chores I’d done that day, and Jinjer, whom I blame completely for my journal obsession, told me about the world of BuJo and posted a handy link.

I clicked.

And fell down the rabbit hole of modern planner obsession. Just like standing in front of a Franklin Planner display back in the day, only seemingly infinite. Instagram hashtags, Pinterest, endless blogs and YouTube flip-throughs. And eventually I stumbled across the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, a refillable Japanese stationer’s flagship product, and that was that. Had to have one. Had to have two.

The judgement thing was that, at first, as I looked at all the stuff, at the endless pictures of piles of planners and journals and pens and stickers and stamps and tapes and myriad other stupid meaningless and often plastic accessories, I thought, “Gross. Wasteful. Needless. These people could bullet journal with a Bic and a two dollar spiral notebook!”

I came across online stationery and pen stores, and thought, “How fucking stupid and pretentious can anyone be? Nobody needs a two hundred dollar fucking fountain pen.” But before two months were out, I’d placed my first Jet Pens order, and read through maybe half of their lovely, clever tutorials, learning several useful things.

Full disclosure: I did buy a fucking fountain pen, but it was under two bucks. I just wanted to see if I, as a leftie, could write with it. Turns out I can, but I have to hold it upside down, in order to pull rather than push the nib. I’m not super fond of it because I prefer superfine pens, and it writes medium-to-heavy.

Fauxdori Traveler's Notebook

So my knee-jerk reaction was a negative judgement, and I ended up turning into what I’d judged. In almost no time at all.

Do I need not only one but two relatively expensive journal solutions? No, I could write online here, or in a private local document. Or if I simply had to go analogue (which I felt I did, as there appears to be evidence it’s good for brain plasticity), any pen and pad of paper would do. It’s just typical Western gluttony and wastefulness (even if it does stimulate the economy (which I’m not confident is wholly good no matter what they say)).

Do any non-professionals need special paper types, wide varieties of writing utensils, or other accessories? No, not at all. I’m no artist, or famous diarist, or world traveler.

But do I really need most of what I have? No. And I’m ashamed of it, honestly, but not enough to force privation on myself. I focus instead on my gratitude and good fortune, most of the time.

Much of my adult life I couldn’t have afforded to buy these things on a whim; I would have put them on wishlists and eventually forgotten about them. Now that I’m in a spot where I can drop sixty bucks on a glorified wallet I don’t need, well, I did. So I’m just like everybody else and I use my discretionary income to buy shit I do not, in any way, shape, or form, need, but only want.

I love this thing

It feels weird. It’s strange that when my life is at its most abundant and comfortable, I’m mentally so Spartan in outlook. I frequently feel a sense of melancholy about how normalized my relative wealth is, when so many are still suffering heartbreaking lack. I have so much, from hot running water to grocery delivery to the luxury of enough free time to make my own bread and pickles and salsa and soups and sauces and hats and socks. Other people are literally shooed off of the park benches they’re trying to sleep on.

Oh, well, enough pontificating. The positive outcome of all this is that not only do I have a couple of objects that give me great pleasure every time I use them, and a new habit of offline analog time, but also I donated an equal amount to the local food kitchen and shelter just so I could stand myself! True story.

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!

1,200 miles: a Washington state tour!

August 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Mush in Music | Travel - (1 Comments)

In which I spend too much goddamned time with the band.

The Ilwaco blues & seafood festival booked us on Friday night this year, so I took the day off from work and was standing, dressed and packed, on the front porch at nine-thirty in the morning as I’d been asked. Rob didn’t bother showing up until twenty minutes later, so the tour started off as it meant to continue.

We went to Kitty’s and loaded bass gear and drums into the van and we hit the road. Six hours later we arrived in Ilwaco — quite possibly one of my favorite towns in the entire world — and went straight to the bandstand. Lots of hugs and happy people.

We had a little time before the show so off to Long Beach to the Adrift to check in to our rooms, bathe, and change. Cutest hotel ever, and right on the beach. Not much water pressure, but who cares: THE BEACH IS RIGHT OUTSIDE.

Coyote Kings feat. Mush Morgan

(more…)

In which I fly! To Seattle! On a plane!

Last week I went to Seattle to see my beloved Satguru, Amma, properly known as Sri Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi.

While I was there I enjoyed a lovely retreat, learned a new meditation technique, suffered a vicious spring cold, had a series of trippy spiritual revelations, and ate a lot of refined carbohydrates.

My friend Toni was slated to go with me and drive us to Seattle, but for some reason I kept blowing off making our reservations for the retreat and the hotel. Two weeks before Amma’s visit, she called to say that had to have a minor surgery that week and wouldn’t be able to go. Suddenly we not only didn’t have reservations, but I didn’t have transportation either.

And then things got awesome. (more…)

In which there’s a blues festival.

Saturday morning my alarms went off at 5:35 and 5:45 respectively. I showered, dressed, grabbed my gig bag and walked out the door at 6:15. IN THE MORNING. After sleeping maybe two hours.

Curt and Cookie picked me up, we grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s and drove to Richland, where we transferred to Tim’s truck and continued driving.

At the festival, we played the cafe at 12:35 and the main stage at 3:40. The crowd was appreciative and the sets were fun. Mineral, WA is lovely and the weather was perfect.

Then we drove home.

I spent ten hours in the car yesterday!

The Flickr set, such as it is, is here.

Seeing Amma

June 2nd, 2010 | Posted by administratrix in Spiritual | Travel - (3 Comments)

In which I share the story of my 2010 pilgrimage to Mother’s feet.

Amma's Feet

Guru brahma gurur visnuh
gurudevo mahesvarah
guru saksat parambrahma
tasmai srigurave namah

(I prostrate to that Sri Guru who is Brahma, Vishnu, and God Maheshwara, and who is verily the Supreme Absolute Itself.)

At the very front of the archana book, there is a 3-and-a-half page manasa puja. I read through it once several years ago.

I don’t remember having any particular response to it other than perhaps the vague opinion that it was a simple or childish form of worship.

Now it elucidates my longing so much that I wish I’d written it myself.

. .. … .. . .. … .. .
The Seattle programs are awkward. There’s a public program, then a paid retreat, then a public program. The only way to get to both public programs is to be in Seattle for three days; if you’re going to be there anyway you might as well sign up for the retreat. And, if you can’t afford the retreat, well, only one public program for you then.

I couldn’t afford the retreat. Hell, I couldn’t even afford transportation to Seattle. The only reason I was able to see Mother at all this year is because a friend, Toni, saw my sad complaint on Facebook and offered to drive me across the state.

When I asked her why she wanted to do that, she said she’d “felt compelled” to take me to Amma. When I sent her a link to amma.org, she cried looking at an image of Mother.

“It happens,” I told her. “If Mother wants to meet you, She’ll meet you.” How lucky am I, that Mother found me a ride?

. .. … .. . .. … .. .
After getting a ride, I got the very last room in the “Amma Tour” room block at the Hyatt, but it was $109 per night. I later found a motel through Priceline for $65. It was five miles away from the program, but at least I could afford it.

So my friend Toni picked me up at 8:45 on Monday morning and drove me across the state in her little red late model car so that I could see my beloved Sat-guru, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi.

My Amma

. .. … .. . .. … .. .
At the motel I loaned Toni a green punjabi, and dressed myself in a white skirt-and-top set I bought at a Chicago program a dozen years ago.

We looked at the map in the phone book for awhile, then we left to find the Hyatt Regency Bellevue. Toni navigates almost entirely by vibe; when I admitted I hadn’t seen the Hyatt where I’d expected it to be (I was looking at the wrong side of the street) she laughed and flipped a U-turn and drove us straight to it.

Parking, miraculously, was free. (We’d already filled the tank. Between the two of us, we had maybe forty dollars.) We went into the Hyatt and got in line with hundreds of devotees. I saw the clothes and the hair and the jewelry and the tattoos and wondered vaguely why humans like to adorn themselves as tribes… I felt some relief: I feel weird about the way I dress because I’m basically the only member of my tribe where I live.

The line started to move. We got to the hall and were handed darshan tokens. Then we followed the directions across the hall and sat for the puja. Toni has bad knees from a car accident she was in, but magically we were seated on the right side of the stage next to the wall so she could stand up when needed without bothering too many people. There were over a thousand people in the hall. Most of the people around us were wearing retreat bracelets.

Devi Bhava

I sat and relaxed into the vibe. These people had all spent two days with Mother; was that what felt so wonderful? Or was it my own expectation of seeing Mother? Or was Mother thinking about us? If God is everywhere and we’re all capable of producing this ourselves, why don’t we? What made this different than any other gathering of people in any other room?

Amma arrived. Toni said she had a clear view of the pada puja even though it was all the way across the hall. (I don’t think I even knew about pada puja for several years. Everyone’s experience around Amma is so different.)

Holy Water

After the holy water was distributed, something about the shape of the ceiling magnified the sound of thousands of lids being snapped onto thousands of little cups into this wonderful groovy clicky-popping sound. “I LOVE that sound!” I whispered. “I want to sample it RIGHT NOW!” The guy next to me and I started giggling and couldn’t stop.

“It’s like a crooked Zen koan!” he replied. “Like, ‘What is the sound of many lids that don’t fit?'”

Each time one of us stopped giggling, the other would start again. Silly, non-ironic, joyful, childlike laughter. It felt WONDERFUL.

. .. … .. . .. … .. .
Mother gave satsang. I took notes on my iThing. This is what they say:

Dispassion, three types: temporary, gradual, intense.
The body is like a rented house
Awareness – like a bird on a dry twig (at any time it could snap)
When we develop intense dispassion we get peace of mind.
What is the point of blaming others for our sorrow?

. .. … .. . .. … .. .
When Swamiji began the Ma-Om meditation, Toni, who had had to stand up during the satsang, came and sat back down. Meditating in Amma’s presence was, as always, a lot like stepping

calmly

off the edge of the world

into an eternal abyss.

The rest of the puja completed, Mother went into the temple to change and they closed the curtains. Toni and I went for a walk because she’s not used to sitting on the floor so much and her knees were killing her.

. .. … .. . .. … .. .
Dinner was pretty good (especially the mattar paneer).

Devi Bhava

I would have had Indian snacks instead, but there aren’t any at the Seattle programs; I guess there aren’t really any Indian devotees in the area to make them. I can’t even tell you how much I was hoping for idli and sambar and pakora. OMG what I would give for some samosas! Srsly.

Our tokens were numbered O-3. I told Toni we wouldn’t be getting darshan until three or four o’clock in the morning. We hit the bookstore. I bought a rudraksha japa mala and a new bottle of Marikolundu.

I got some chai. Eventually Toni went and found a couch and napped.

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I went up to the stage and stared at Amma for a couple of hours.

Well, when I could see Her at all I stared. The devotees doing their various sevas on stage insisted on standing directly in front of me, and I kept crying to Her in my head: “Let me see You! I can’t see You! This is my only time with You all year and this guy has to stand there!” I was feeling extremely sorry for myself that I didn’t get my usual three days with Mother and instead had only a few hours with Her and that guy! Why couldn’t he freakin’ kneel when he wasn’t actively doing his freakin’ seva?! I paced like a caged cat up and down the side of the stage, looking for a glimpse of my beloved Mother. Eventually I perched sideways behind a chair and I could see Her, but it took a toll on my neck and meditating was out of the question.

I went and sat down in front of the stage in a place left empty because the corner of the temple blocked any view of Amma, and meditated for about forty minutes. I’m not sure, but I think I may have fallen asleep. I didn’t nod off or start to fall over – usually a good indication that one has passed out – because I had very carefully arranged my body so that it took no effort to keep it upright, but there was a definite lack of conscious continuity.

Maybe I slept, maybe I had a very deep meditation. I don’t know. The issue caused me to wonder what the difference between “awareness” and “consciousness” might be. Do I have to be one to be the other?

I guess that I possess “consciousness,” because popular opinion and scripture alike say I do, but honestly I don’t know how to define it. I think I’m here and that I’m me, but I can’t tell you why I think that. Am I still conscious when I’m asleep? Can I be conscious without being aware? Can I be aware without being conscious? Most importantly, how do I know I’m me? I don’t have an unbroken recollection of my life; I have chunks of memory bordered by periods of sleep: each iteration of myself as the doer is utterly discrete, and yet I insist that these memories are all beads on the same string. Why do I think that? And how, if indeed at all, does this small-s-self relate to any capital-S-Self I might be trying to become?

I don’t meditate regularly because, honestly, the ever-changing world is more charming than whatever I find inside myself. I understand that the space within is infinitely vast (I can fit a model of the entire universe in there with room to spare), but it doesn’t draw me like the manifest world does. At best, meditation – even in the presence of my Satguru – is no better than just really pleasant, thank you very much.

So it follows that either I’m Doing It Wrong or that I’m missing the point. What is the point? When we see images of saints deep in samadhi, it sure looks like there’s a point. What are they doing in there? And why after twenty years of meditation don’t I know the answer to that question?

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After a yummy masala latte, I went back to the right side of the stage and found myself a place sitting on the floor directly behind the stairs. From that position, I could see Mother’s face more often than not. (I wanted to be much closer to Her, but everyone was being invited to sit after darshan and between them and the prasad people I figured I’d get booted in a couple of minutes anyway.)

I leaned against the metal banister and rested my chin on the floor of the temple and wondered, as I always do, why She bothers to do this. Why come into the world and do this incredible, endless job of work? Each year She comes, and each year she bootstraps us out of our mess, and we go back into the world full of love and compassion and ready to serve… and slowly, we forget. The next year, She does it again, and so do we. Rinse and repeat. She could just be sitting somewhere in samadhi. Why pour this little bottle of milk into the vast ocean?

“I’m a waste of Your time,” I thought. “These others probably utilize Your grace much better than I. I’m lucky I get even one darshan this year. I deserve less than even this, to sit where I can see You.” I briefly considered leaving without darshan, but even at the time I saw it was some sort of self-pitying ego dance. The mind really is a terrible thing.

“All I care about is You. All I want to do is be around you. Everything else is a waste of time.” I wondered if I wasn’t being a passive Westerner: I have ONLY A FEW HOURS IN HER PRESENCE and am I really just going to sit here? She’s right there! I thought about begging myself onto the prasad list: “I used to be one of the Iowa seva coordinators, but three years ago I moved and now I don’t have a local satsang and I’ve done no seva all year and this is the one and only chance I have to see Mother. How about it, can you get me up there?”

I cried because She’s so perfect and so beautiful. It seems that I had, compacted into my eight hours in Her presence, the same journey I would have had in three days if I’d been on the retreat.

Eventually, the sign said O-1. I went to find Toni. We got into the darshan line. It moved much too fast for me. I was on stage before I knew it, and in the lap almost instantly. I’d been in line between two first-timers, and had harbored a fantasy about sitting right next to Mother for a couple of minutes. Or maybe I’d get to be in the lap while She did mantras… but suddenly, moments after I got into the temple, She hugged me. I thought, “I love You so much, Ma, and all I want is You,” and started to cry, and then my darshan was over. She smiled at me as She handed me my prasad. She knew me – I quit wondering if She recognized me years ago – but there was no super special darshan for me this year, even though I’d been feeling so sorry for myself about only getting the one.

I got the impression I had been officially weaned off of Her form a few years ago (the first time I had had the “I really need to look within and see what’s in there” revelation) and that She knew I knew that. I mean, I remember it. This child doesn’t get long silly darshans; this one is supposed to be doing seva or meditating.

The sevite near the stairs motioned me to sit on the side of the stage. Toni sat behind me after her darshan. The monitor was making the front row get up and leave every 60 seconds. After scootching forward twice I was behind the assistant prasad person and finally close enough to Mother… a minute later I was asked to leave so the people behind me could get their turns too.

I most emphatically DID NOT WANT to leave, now that I’d gotten where I wanted to be.

I left the stage anyway, because I was supposed to.

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I considered staying until the end of the program; I could maybe catch a cab back to the motel, or Toni could come back get me… After walking to the car and sitting for a few minutes, I decided it would be selfish not to leave. Yes, I was wasting the four to six more hours I could spend in Amma’s presence, but I didn’t have cab fare and it was clearly unfair to steal sleep from Toni, who had so graciously driven me to Seattle in the first place.

It was four o’clock in the morning. We’d been awake for over 22 hours and had driven for over five of them.

We left.

I imagined Mother behind me, giving darshan endlessly, and sniffled a little. The sky was lightening in the east and birds were beginning to sing.

We set an alarm for 10:30 and crashed for six hours. I slept wrapped around my Amma doll.

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After brunch at a Red Robin in Bellevue, we drove back to Walla Walla. It was overcast nearly the entire way. I plugged in my iPod and we rocked Amma bhajans the whole time.

Driving home

I did a lot of japa. I got a mocha in Cle Elum. We stopped at a fruit stand-slash-antique store outside of Yakima and browsed for an hour.

I was starving by the time Toni dropped me off. I nuked a bowl of rice and beans immediately. I tried to stay up until a decent hour but I was so tired I failed. I went to bed around six and slept for a very, very, VERY long time.

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Today I found the manasa puja in the front of my archana book and recognized in it literally all of my current feelings. “Oh Mother,” it says. “You are pure love. I am too impure to deserve Your Grace. I know that my egoism and selfishness must be repelling to You. Still, bear with me. Mother, please be with me. You are the holiest river. I am a stagnant, filthy pond. You flow to me and purify me, overlooking my shortcomings and forgiving my mistakes.” I miss Her so much, and doubt entirely my ability to do anything at all of use outside of Her influence.

Something wonderful must be going on in there, because why else travel the globe merely to hug creatures like me? If enlightenment is loving all of creation as Self, well, it must be more wonderful than it sounds.

~ Om Namah Shivaya ~


Related links:
Amma’s 2010 North American tour schedule
My Flickr picture set

In which I recap my madcap, whirlwind, SUPERfun trip to the cit-ay!

By 8:30 Friday morning I was in Sheila‘s van, heading west. Her awesome daughters let me ride shotgun, which was supercool of them. The ride was lovely – watching the land change from desert to rain forest is beautiful every single time I see it – and the company was lovely.

Columbia river

I was at the Hollywood TC before one in the afternoon. I called Dave. He told me to start walking down 39th and he’d come and get me.

I can’t tell you exactly how long, but it’s been a loooooooong time since I last saw Dave. We were in the MHCC jazz program together in the late 80’s. We had beers, and his neighbor (who also happens to be his bass player) set up an ad hoc wireless network for me so I could get online.

Beers!

Adie came and picked me up after she got off work, and we went to her house, where I was attacked by terriers!. (Hah!) I put my bag in the guest room, changed my clothes, and after a bit we wandered over to Alberta for dinner at The Hilt. (Falafel! Hummus! Mojitos!)

Alberta

My friend Leila dropped in and had a little nosh with us. It was a wonderful visit. After she took off we walked home, watched some TV, and were in bed by 10:30. (more…)