Wear the World as a Loose Garment
This past week we had a member of our community pass away. It brought me back to the bedside of my father in his final 72 hours. Nothing remained; all the tattvas had been purified. The man who was my father, the kind, wise, funny, brilliant, caring small-town doctor was now just bone and breath—and that for only a short while longer. When Saint Francis spoke these words, “wear the world as a loose garment,” he was referencing this all-too-short life we live and how we should approach living it. He was cautioning us to not become too attached. But as I reflect on these words in light of this path, the path of Kundalini Yoga, there’s so much more we can give to this simple phrase.
In our path, we speak of Sahej, in fact it’s one of the five stages of Spiritual Maturity or Wisdom. And it means ease. To come to a place of ease and grace in our practice is to find ourselves on the threshold of mastery. To come to a place of ease as a woman is to give up the pretenses of make-up and tight clothes because we know have nothing to make up for—and anything we can’t breathe in doesn’t belong in our closet anymore. To come to a place of ease in our own lives is to understand that all we can do is our best; the rest is in the hands of the doer, Karta Purkh. To come to a place of ease, sahej, is to come into a state of acceptance of what is. We quit trying so hard. We quit pushing the river. We quit anything and everything that used to tie us up in knots, whether it’s what our neighbors might think, what our children might do, what our partner might say. We quit judging everything and everyone—including ourselves. We loosen our belts and take a deep breath and see what lies before us as good. And in this way, we align ourselves with God who sees it all as good, in the beginning and in the end.
Sahej is a state of peace and equanimity. It’s a state of non-judgment. It’s a state of rest. So take it easy today. Life is short, but it’s also long. Loosen up a bit. Laugh as often as you can. Be at ease at least once every day. And you may find, oddly enough, that the rest takes care of itself.
If death serves as that reminder to us of these basic things, then may we be brave enough to look into its face often enough to remember: It is a good day to die, and with that as your foundation, Live!
Community Meditations and the Power of Prayer
When communities meditate together, great things are possible. We have several examples within our 3HO family, Summer and Winter Solstice, Yogi Bhajan and Guru Ram Das’ Birthday Global meditations, Peace Prayer Day, International Peace Day, and more. And all around the world, communities come together to set their own intentions: someone is dying, someone is being born, 40-day, 90-day and 120-day journeys of intention, purpose and prayer.
Recently the community here at Hacienda de Guru Ram Das set an intention for rain. We were joined by yogis from California to Southwest Texas and well, there’s no other way to say it, we brought the rain! Actually, Guru’s Grace brought the rain. Either way, it was a blessing. And we’re going to continue to pray because this drought is ongoing. And as Yogi Bhajan said, “drought is a good minister because it gets so many people to pray.” And praying together is a beautiful thing.
It’s possible that this is the shabad Guru Amar Das wrote it in response to another great drought in Northern India. The people came to him saying they were being ridiculed by other yoga schools. People were saying their Guru wasn’t a True Guru if he couldn’t relieve the drought and bring the rain. The interesting part of the way this story is told is that Guru Amar Das didn’t then pray to have the drought relieved. Instead, he wrote the shabad and told his people to sing and pray together. It was their collective prayer that would affect the change. And so we do the same today, we come together to pray and recite the Guru’s Bani, and the sound current sends itself out into the universe and everything is changed.
There’s still time to join our communal prayer. Go to www.truebeingbeingtrue.com to find the shabad sheet and a recording. A people who pray together, stay together. Take every opportunity you can to join one another in circles of intention, healing and love. Unite in consciousness and become one; group consciousness serves us in ultimately cultivating universal consciousness. This is the path. This is the journey. Let’s walk it together.
A Post Valentine Cautionary Tale
Let me first say that yesterday was the best valentine's day I've ever had. Relaxed, spontaneous, fun followed by full moon, cake and more fun. But I also spent many, many years alone on Valentine's and I know it can be hard. So for all of you out there still praying, still longing, still looking for "the one" here's a cautionary tale just for you:
Wanting to be with someone is ubiquitous, the quintessential desire shared by all living beings. I too experienced that longing, for a looooooong time, until I gave it up. But until I gave up the longing, or rather, redirected it toward the infinite, I did everything anyone told me to do in order to attract a mate. I feng shuied my house, I painted my bedroom a horrific pink color, I bought a Krishna, I created vision boards, I wrote lists and put them on my altar, I meditated, I sang, I joined the online sites, I went hiking (terrible idea), I sat in coffee shops for hours, I read every book, I went to therapy, I exercised, I didn’t exercise. There isn’t much I didn’t try until I quit trying.
One of the most common practices in our dharma is the recitation of Sopurkh. A part of Rehiras, the evening prayer, women recite it 11 times in order to bring out the God-man in their own man. I don’t want to put anyone off of the practice, but I do think it’s important to know the purpose and the possible effects if practiced outside that purpose. Many women, like myself, practice Sopurkhs in order to call a man into their life. And for many it has worked. For me? Not so much.
I practiced Sopurkhs every day for almost a year. I had profound sensory experiences while I practiced it; I felt everything. My body was more alive and attuned than it had ever been. I felt awake in a whole new way. But unfortunately, what I attracted was the same old same old. I was notorious for choosing the wrong guys. It’s a story that’s been told before by so many, so I’ll spare you the details here. But I will say that the unique thing about this particular “wrong guy” was that he was clearly a samskara, that is, a karmic imprint. To the point that when I introduced him to my sister, she turned to me and said, “Oh, it’s X” That is, the man I had had a crush on when I was 10 years old. I had called into my arcline the very projection—physical manifestation and character—of a man I’d had a childhood crush on 25 years prior. All of my attachment, all of my fantasy, all of my expectations, wishes and dreams were wound up in a particular form and projection—and I had called him in. And my sister named it the moment she laid eyes on him.
This particular samskara burned so hot and fast that I was pure bone by the end of it. It was a gift; just not the gift I expected. It was a cleansing, a purification, of the highest order. I often think back to those days when I was filled with hope and I practiced those Sopurkhs with such devotion. And I’m grateful actually. Because even though the practice didn’t bring me my God-man, the samskara of that attachment burned me so completely that when my own God-man finally arrived (after practicing Mangala Saaj Bhai-aa) I was clear. Crystal clear. There was nothing of me to get in the way. It was pure surrender. And now I occasionally do Sopurkhs for my husband to support his grace and his strength as a man—my very own God-man.
So, by all means, practice Sopurkhs for the men in your life. But be cautious about practicing it in order to call a man into your life because the purification that the divine requires in order to actually manifest as your very own God-man can be the most painful process you’ll ever encounter. Still—I have to say, when my God-man did come, I couldn’t have envisioned who and what he is to me. He is 100, no a 1000 times more, than I would have ever had the courage to ask for. So in the end, maybe it was worth it. But don't say I didn't warn you!
No Such Thing as Enough
The loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has struck many as the tragedy it is. And I suppose I'm just one more voice in the chorus of "why?" But I can speak a bit to the experience of being in the throws of addiction. In fact, just the other day I was out with friends listening to music. I asked my husband to bring me a glass of water and he returned with a glass that was 3/4 full. I looked at him and said, "This is how I know you're not an alcoholic. You didn't fill it up to the top." And his response was typically non-alcoholic: "It seemed like enough." I turned to my friend and we both just laughed because there's no such thing as enough in our world. And that is the world of addiction--without recovery, that is. And even with it sometimes.
Mr. Hoffman was a creative genius, which has been widely recognized. So I don't need to speak to that here. But I will speak to the pressures of creative genius on the alcoholic mind. You see, in the world of the alcoholic, we're either everything or nothing: "I may be a piece of shit but I'm all I think about." That low-self esteem combined with such grandiosity combined with true genius and unmitigated shame is the quixotic cocktail that shapes the life of an artist who's also an addict. And just because we stop, doesn't mean the thinking stops, which is often why we pick up again. Sometimes the pain becomes so great that we turn to the familiar, the "comfortably numb." And it is that search for oblivion that is the hallmark of all addictive behavior whether it's food, sex, drugs or the old familiar, alcohol. It's hard to imagine the life of such a man is now over, gone in an instant, a moment of darkness and despair, or simply a dull ache on its journey to numbness, the search for a way not to feel quite so much--feelings are the one thing that is more than enough. Sensitivity is at the root of creative genius but it's also a root cause of addiction. We are wired to respond more quickly and with more feeling than people who aren't addictive. And that wiring has its inherent gifts and its contingent curses.
The only way out is to tie our sensitivity to service, our emotion to devotion, our darkness to a light that is inextinguishable. May we all find that light, live the light and be the light. May we become so bright that the shadows of addiction are consumed in the fire of love. And may we no longer try to fill that gaping hole within with anything other than the divine name of the One.
The Chinese Wall
In business, when there’s a conflict of interest within an organization, the accounting department will establish something called a Chinese Wall, which is essentially an information barrier. Like the brain barrier, it lets nothing in—especially if it could potentially harm the other entity or the organization as a whole. Forgive me in advance for this metaphor, but marriage is much like this and I recently ran smack into the wall, not really understanding yet that it was there. Now, I’m a woman who has studied the Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, especially in regard to the women’s teachings, back and forth, side-to-side, every which way—I wrote a book about it for God’s sake!--and still, I found myself running smack dab into the wall at full speed. And now, bloody and bruised, I’m not only enraged that the wall exists, I’m even angrier at myself for forgetting it was there.
It’s proof that you can know this stuff intellectually, you can have it nailed down, so you think, and then life happens. And until you experience it, it’s all fruitless information. It’s not wisdom. Although I’m certainly not on the other side of the wall yet and so have no idea what lies on the other side, I have some experience with the wall itself at this point. So know that I’m reporting from the front lines—not from the safe distance of the peace treaty already signed, sealed and delivered.
Once in every woman’s relationship to these teachings and to 3HO in general, she will confront the uncomfortable truth within herself that these teachings put in your face and won’t go away until you accept it or turn to the side (not necessarily rejecting it outright, but not necessarily drinking the kool-aid either). That truth is this: As a woman, I am entirely responsible for my experience—100%. I am the creator, the sustainer and the destroyer or deliverer of everything in my world. Period. Now, this is tremendously heavy to take on; but it’s also tremendously liberating. Because once you own it, you can change your life. But until you own it, it feels like a curse—and not that monthly gift, but the daily duty of taking responsibility for our own experience. Yuck! Who wants to do that? Nevertheless, this is the work. And for the most part, I can report that I reached that point where the Truth was in my face and I eventually surrendered to it.
Now to the Chinese Wall that makes a marriage. Here I find myself once again with the truth shoved into my face demanding that I swallow it and I’m just as mad as I was the first time. I’m just as full of outrage and disgust. I’m just as terrified of what will happen when I surrender to it—if I surrender to it. But here’s the real rub: you see, in a marriage, you don’t have a choice, if you want to stay married, that is. What is this mysterious Chinese Wall you ask? Well, you know how you, as a woman, want to communicate and listen and share your process? Men want nothing to do with it. And the especially sharp and pointy part of this for me personally is that my definition of love has always been “to be seen.” But how can I be seen if I’m not heard; they are intrinsically linked in my mind. And if I can’t be heard, and I can’t be seen, then how can I possibly be loved? How can he possibly love me when he’s unwilling to listen to me, see me? This is the narrative in my own head, mind you. Meanwhile, my loving husband just looks at me alternately confused or disgusted by my commotions—and the love we do genuinely feel for each other comes dangerously close to being lost.
Yogi Bhajan once said that if a man truly loves you, he’ll never listen to you. So here’s the bitter pill I must learn to swallow. Love in a marriage is nothing like we think it will be. It’s nothing like we want it to be. It’s another animal altogether—and the Chinese Wall is a part of that animal. And from here, at the base of it, all broken and battered, it seems to be the very heart of the beast. Back in high school, when I played volleyball (very poorly), we had a play that we laughingly called the Husband/Wife play and it referred to that moment when the ball dropped invariably to the floor between two available, capable and ready players—no communication.
Communication in a marriage is still a mystery to me. And who knows, perhaps someday I’ll have something wise to say or words of council to offer. But for now, here I am, licking my wounds and wishing, hoping and praying that the wall would come down, all the while knowing it won’t. It can’t. It’s a load-bearing wall; it is his strength even as it is my weakness. Meanwhile, I chant Rakhe Rakhanhaar and hope for a way to place my prayers, my hopes, and my wishes in the cracks of the wall and trust that somehow, someway, they will be heard, as will his.
Labels: love, marriage, relationships
“I am mastering my love for you and turning it inwards as a constituent element of myself.” Sartre
I found this quote today and it reflected back to me the path I must be willing to take if I am to master the art of loving. When I was younger, I would lose myself into the other, the lover, and every time, wake up 6 months later, or 2 years later, or let's be honest, two weeks later sometimes, and wonder where I had gone. I couldn't remember any of the things that used to animate my own life, I had so lost myself in the other. Apply this habit to a marriage and you have a recipe for disaster, or do you? Even as I have watched for it and been ever vigilant, it happens--and the inescapable fact to me now--at a ripe old age of 45 in a brand new marriage--is that it's supposed to happen. I am supposed to loose myself, lose myself, in the other. I am supposed to drop my own ego and attachment to what I want in order to seek a mutual happiness, a shared joy, a journey together.
And yet, the older pattern, the one in which I don't recognize myself any longer and have nothing reflecting back at me to acknowledge this self-sacrifice still haunts me. So this morning I find myself lost and feeling separate from and yet somehow drowned at the same time in the other. And this is the hallmark of the older pattern: standing in front of the mirror and not recognizing who is reflected back, not recognizing myself. So what would it look like to take that same practice of loosing myself into the other but elevate it into the perfection it must achieve in order to sustain a marriage?
The first test is to not loose oneself into the role. If I don't behave as I believe a wife should, I can't automatically assume that there's a breach in the relationship. That's what's happened this morning; I slept in and he went to work with hardly a word. And I spend the morning feeling I've failed in some fundamental way and create the separation within myself. Whatever I do or don't do as "wife" is not who I am and it is not the mutuality we share, not immediately and directly anyway. Serving those roles nurtures the bond, but assuming the role is the relationship is a conflation that destroys intimacy. Allow the role to serve you, not the other way around.
The second test is to love in the face of getting everything you want, or nothing you want; it cannot be dependent on circumstance--good or bad. Love must remain steady: through good moods and bad, through the bottomed-out sense of identity and loss that quitting one's job brings to the creative exploration that sends you out into parallel universes that you cannot share, through everything that a day to day relationship brings with it: making the bed, scrubbing the toilet, washing the dishes, making the breakfast drink and so much more. Finding the mutuality--actually looking for it--is the daily task. This is the love--to look for it and to see and in seeing to understand. This cultivates empathy and mutuality, which in turns, creates the love.
The third test is to as Sartre states so brilliantly, to somehow incorporate the love I feel into a sustaining food for myself. To somehow embody that love for the other (in this case my husband) as myself--the two become one--and so the love that flows outward must also flow equally inward. If not, then we create an imbalance. We never feel loved enough. And this realization comes the morning after my somewhat reserved husband said more than once last night how much he loved me. So the insecurity comes from within--no fooling myself in that regard.
Mastering love is a life's work. And I'm making every effort to be compassionate to myself for you see, I've never done this before. That is, I've never remained myself and loved another person. And that's the only way for love to remain. Yes we change. Yes, we loose and lose ourselves in the other. But if there's no there there, who can he then love in return? I must remain and incorporate, literally give body, to this love I feel so that instead of consuming me in a bright flash of fire, it instead warms us both in a steady flame.
Tending Fires: In Memoriam
Tending Fires: In Memoriam
I spend my mornings tending fires, trying to keep the house warm, approaching the day slowly, not wanting to take anything too intense on too early in the day. These are not the habits acquired from my father. Instead, my father faced each day tackling the biggest things first—“to get them out of the way” and enjoy the rest of the day. Would that I had his fortitude; instead, I put things off, procrastinate, delay, avoid, and so on. The habits I did take on from my father were more subtle: his melancholia, his reserve, his wisdom, his laughter (although his laugh wasn’t subtle at all! And nor is mine!). He often said that every day felt like climbing a mountain. And I don’t know that I could have continued climbing as he did, each and every day. But perhaps that’s an explanation, as good or bad as any, for his long illness.
I have spent this past year often forgetting that he’s no longer here. And then I’ll remember. It’s not painful. And I’ve often wondered if I’m not grieving him, if something is wrong with me; but in truth, when someone is ill for so long, as my father was, you grieve his loss long before he’s actually gone. Things that were “him” fell away slowly, one at a time, over days, weeks, months and years of an illness that slowly robbed us all of our father, grandfather, husband, friend, physician, spiritual elder and much much more. He was robbed of playing cards years ago; he could no longer hold the cards, or follow the game. He was robbed of reading a little later so my mom began reading to him aloud or listening to books with him. But he was never robbed of his sense of humor; as long as he could communicate, his wry, dry humor was with him. And that’s what I choose to remember today, on the anniversary of his death, when so much was lost, his humor remains with me and in me. Me and my brother and sister and his grandchildren, we are funny people and we love life—even when it’s hard—as he did. And that’s a legacy I can live with, especially on those days when I feel I can’t live with the fact that he’s gone.