Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: August 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

Well folks, I wrote a great review of this movie this morning and then lost it....ouch! I don't know that I have it in me to reproduce it, but here's a try:

Little Miss Sunshine is the funniest movie I've seen in years. Granted it stars some of my favorite actors currently working today: Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear, who pull of their respective roles beautifully. But it's also one of the most brilliant screenplays I've seen come to life on the screen. This beautiful, loser family goes on a road trip to pursue a little girl's dream.

The parents: a hard-working mom who's seen it all and is at the end of her proverbial rope when it comes to her husband, the cock-eyed optimist who has quit his job to pursue his dream as a pursuasive speaker and writer. Only problem is he's a loser and his book is about how to be a winner! Needless to say a bad combination. There's a heroin-addict grandpa, brilliant cameo role by Alan Arkin, and a love-sick, imminent Proust scholar and post-suicide gay brother along for the ride, again brilliantly played by none other than Steve Carrell, probably the best comedic actor to come around in years. The two children include a meloncholy misanthrop teenage boy who hates everything (except Nietzche of course) and a young, 6-year-old girl who has become a finalist, inexplicably it seems, in the Little Miss SUnshine pageant in S. California.

So, this family of misfits takes off from Albuquerque in a beat-up VW van and the adventures follow. I can't recount them all but let's just say, you can't believe it's happening and yet you can. And you're laughing all the way--even when you're uncomfortable about laughing. The moral of the story for me was about the power of failure (could be the story of my life) but it doesn't hurt that the movie ends in a hilarious, yet scathing indictment of the child pageant industry.

Go see this movie! Do not pass go, do not collect $200, but you will garner a lot of laughs!

Yogi Bhajan's Birthday Celebration

This weekend was a flurry of activity. I was asked to do the opening song for the event, which was a huge honor, and a blessing. We had great fun. My friends Har Pal and Japa sang along to Sat Nam, the Grace Within You Shines Through You Forevermore....It was a good time. I played the guitar standing up for the first time in my life and I think I want to be Loretta Lynn when I grow up.

There were a couple of great video: one a short spoof on the "priceless" commercials and the other a short on Yogi Bhajan. And of course the best sequence was when all the people interviewed said, Oh, no, I don't think I can tell that story....ha!

All in all, I think it was a great success and people had a good time. A HUGE thunderstorm which had been around somewhat in the afternoon, came into full reckoning immediately after the bangara dancers were through. Lightening and rain like sheets--the entire grounds turned into a river. I guess yogiji was enjoying the party (smile). I'm glad I had my cheap shoes on!

May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

the hungry mob

My friend Bhajan and I hosted one of the Guru Ram Das evenings last night. (It's an eleven-day celebration leading up to Yogi Bhajan's Birthday Parth.) It feels like it didn't even happen. On the plus side, I can finally say I've learned to cook for 50 people. It was delicious. On the down side, it felt like by the time I got to sit down and eat, everyone was gone or on their way to being gone. I was hoping for some fellowship, some coziness. Maybe a few people stay for a movie? But I didn't even get to say "boo" to anyone. 50 people come in, they eat, and they leave.

Maybe I'm just being cynical this morning. But I kind of sympathize with my mother when she used to complain about cooking: You spend all this time, then you sit down, and then it's gone and all you have are dirty dishes.

It is said that your home and your life receive a great blessing by hosting the sangat in this way, but I'm afraid I'm just becoming more materialist in my old age. I want to actually enjoy the experience in itself. I want to have people stay and visit. I want to actually know who these people are that have come into my home. I suppose I'll stick to smaller events in the future. My house doesn't comfortably host that many people anyway.

Lesson learned.

Other lessons learned this week. . . . I have no idea how I'm perceived. My friend and teacher calls me to say how perceptive I am and how meditative my mind is. Who knew? Or what is it exactly that he sees since I have no apparent sadhana, no discipline, and an often "explosive" personality. My other friend says to me: You look so beautiful tonight. More beautiful than I've ever seen you. Meanwhile, I feel so not beautiful. Interesting. I'm working on my projection versus my insides--trying to make them come to balance. Maybe it's like some of those other old lessons learned. My perception of myself takes a while to catch up to the reality. Maybe I'm in the middle of a cognitive disconnect and its requisite intuitive leap. My insides haven't caught up to my outsides--or maybe it's the other way around?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ahhh resolve.

It's an interesting thing to observe oneself--especially assuming you're a seemingly mature, responsible human being. I notice that I'm terribly hard on myself and yet, not very disciplined and one would think that those two things would go hand-in-hand. Not.

What I've found works best for me is to just notice the things I am doing and the things I'm not doing and observe the patterns. For example, I've started all these sadhanas in the past few weeks since solstice but haven't been able to complete any of them. In fact, I stop around day 9 or 14--I think I made it all the way to 17 on one of them. So, I began again, or said so anyway, around my birthday. But only one of those have I kept. I am wearing white every day to help my aura. I've also recently begun a very short meditation in which I converse with myself every evening before I go to bed. Now, to some this may sound like an exercise in schizophrenia, but I'm finding it very helpful in looking directly at some of my blocks and beginning to be in relationship to them--therefore, changing them. (We do know now that observation is the beginning of change. Well, at least at the molecular level.)

But as for all the other resolutions--forget about it! Have I stuck to my 3-dish rule? (must wash the dishes if there are three or more items in or near the sink) Have I given up sugar? (well, only if you count eating a box of cookies a day, plus a soda here and there, giving it up--ha!) Have I begun exercising? (I've walked my dog once since my birthday--I don't think that counts as the hour of exercise per day that my psyche and body requires to be truly happy) So, here I am, a relatively self-aware woman who knows what she needs to do and can not do it. It's the human condition. Even Paul, that self-righteous apologist for Christ confessed a similar shortcoming: I know what is good to do and cannot do it (or something to that affect).

What is this? This human condition. How as a yogi can I continue to play this game? Wasting this life, this gift. Or, is it really a waste? Yogi Bhajan constantly said, Life is for Happiness. Your birthright is to be happy, healthy and holy. Relax. Etc.

Another resolve: from this day forward I will only do what I do. And observe the rest. Let's see what this approach brings, eh?

I'll keep you updated.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Things Read and Seen on the World Front

Well, it's been a busy few weeks and I realized that I hadn't written about some of the more profound experiences I've had.

I finally finished the book, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families. I began it waaaaaay back in February and for those of you who know me, you know that I generally finish a book within a few days. So, this was a record for me I think. It's an account of the genocide and aftermath in Rwanda in 1994. It was so challenging to read that at times I read only a page a day before I had to put it down. And then, of course, there were weeks I simply couldn't pick it up. It's beautifully and written and very informative. It's so challenging to keep track of who did what to whom--that you often don't know who the 'bad guy' is! This was definately true in the case of Rwanda. I won't go into the details here, but suffice to say when race and politics mix with long histories of suppression and neo-colonialism, it's difficult to know which came first the chicken or the egg. But we can know this, that when a standing government calls for an all-out attack on its own people, something has gone terribly wrong. But I found the summation of the book refreshing, especially in this New-World-Order-Age-of-We-Know-What's-Best-Interventionary-Politics: Africa must be the solution to Africa's problems. The outside world and it's presumptious and arrogant position that they, and only they, can solve these 'peoples problems has been shattered. The US and European Union have no more idea how to solve East or Central or West Africa's problems than they know to solve their own. And in most cases, they are the initiator of the problem in the first place. Let's not even start with the the Congo, or France in Uganda, or the US in Somalia. So, the people and the politicics must reflect the region they are from as well as project the univeral, humanitarian principles of liberty and justice and the preciousness of this human life--every human life. That's all. But that's asking a lot--for all of us.

I also finished reading Anderson Cooper's new memoir: Dispatches from the Edge: A memoir of war, disasters, and survival. A really excellent book. I don't know why I was drawn to it. I don't have cable so I can't know him as a personality on tv. But I've read a couple of interviews with him in various magazines (vanity fair, etc.) and was really compelled by his story. This memoir is a quick read, though again, a challenging one. He's been to almost every war zone and famine in the past 15 years. His tales of the human toll of war and the cost to himself in witnessing it is harrowing. I personally have a strange paradox: I love photography as a medium, an art; but I hate being behind the camera or in front of it. I feel it closes you off from the experience, from actually being there. And so to hear his account of breaking past that wall--that barrier of the camera--and beginning to be present to the moment is very powerful. Highly recommend.

And finally, the new documentary by Michael Franti on the conflict in the Middle East called I Know I'm Not Alone. First let me confess my bias, I love Michael Franti and have for more than 10 years. He began with the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy--a cutting edge, conscious hip-hop/rap group, then he went on to form Spearhead. He's a beautiful, conscious, love-this-life man of peace. In this documentary he goes to Bhaghdad on his own. He meets musicians, poets, and people from all walks of life. He meets both US and Iraqi soldiers. He meets survivors, mothers, children with no legs, men with no arms. And he sings! Then he goes to the occupied territors in Palestine/Israel. And in this sequence, I am most moved by his encounter between a Palestinian young man and the Israeli guards at a gate. He convinces the palestinian to go with him and just start a dialigogue--and what begins as accusing and blame becomes a true authentic relay between the two parties. It's a beautiful thing to witness. This movie is already available on DVD and I highly recommend that you buy it and you invite all your friends over and you watch it and you talk about how we're going to be committed to peace, committed to dialogue, and committed to ending the US interests in the middle east and beyond.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

They Say It's Your Birthday

It's my birthday, too, yeah. Yes, today is the day my soul decided to come join you all--38 years ago. It's the guru's year-11-in Numerology. A gateway year. Some big things should happen.

I don't have any big aspirations, though. Last year was a big year for transitions. New home, new job, new life. This year I feel like I'll be settling a little bit deeper into my own skin. I'd like to sing more; I'd like to record a few things; I'd like to write more--a book even; I'd like to read more; I'd like to hike more; I'd like to develop a really strong personal sadhana; I'd like to go to New York, Seattle--and maybe even Paris. I'd like to stay in touch better with friends like you; I basically want to do more of what I love to do, but with more intention, more awareness, more purpose.

Since it's the guru's year for me, maybe I'll finally finish that sahaj path I started too long ago to mention. I'd like to go deeper into me and resolve and dissolve the remaining blocks to my own liberation and freedom so that I can simply be relaxed in my own life, in my own skin, in my own home. When my Buddhist teacher, Robina Courtin, was here in January, she said that if you wanted to know when you were enlightened. If you wanted a way to 'check it' as she says. Know this: in the morning, when you wake up, if every hair on your body stands up because you are so ecstatic to be alive and to be blessed with this precious breath--to wake up on the right side of the grass as we say in the South--that's when you'll know you've achieved the consciousness of liberation; that's when you'll have achieved freedom.

I've had an awakening this year; I've realized my true nature--cherdi kala--through meditation and practice. But I want to continue the unraveling. I want to continue the exploration. This journey that began 38 years ago continues on--and it's always been a journey about finding the truth. Perhaps that's why I'm a Sikh--a seeker of truth. May your journey bring you to the destination that your heart calls you toward. May it be cozy, may it be filled with like-minded friends (the company of the saints) and may it call you to your highest potential.

Blessing, blessing, blessing from the living God that is within you and that is You. Sat Nam.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Coming Day

Greetings Everyone,

I am continually surprised at who shows up in my life and in what ways. A friend of mine in the community sent this poem in celebration of my birthday tomorrow. I thought I'd share it.

On this day God sent a sister to take birth,
to share the songs of angels with the earth.
With total grace God gave a gifted voice,
to share God's own words and rejoice.
In the light of the shabad Guru,
all can be seen as true.
A voice at all might be a curse without the naam,
a beautiful voice brings to life each psalm.
To utter God's words even ONCE we are blessed,
a life of pleasure and pain becomes a perfect quest.

Thank you Prabhu for the lovely poem.

I, too, have been contemplating poetry in these past few days as my birthday approaches. Mary Oliver especially. She has a wonderful piece about death called 'Gravel'. Because at my age (ha) when you think about birth, you also think about its polarity, death. So here is my poem to celebrate my self-existence in this moment in time and space:

Living Will

My last will and testament
does not speak of wealth or
the dispensing of things
but of wishes and memories
and even dreams.

when this breath leaves this body,
this sack of bones, may I be
turned to dust.
lay me not down beneath earth
and stones
Let me loose so that I can fly
floating along a warm breeze
let me lie down in all the wilding places:
moss and fern, desert flower, pinion tree,
let me join the waters of a
flowing stream
may I join the ocean
that always meets the shore
In this way I can say
I have flown
I have traveled far
I have crossed the world ocean
I've become a star

I leave to you the memory
of my grandmother's touch
so soft, like the touch of a dove
I leave to you the smell of
my grandfather's neck--
part oil, part sweat

I leave to you the burst of my
father's laughter
surprising and rising, then after--
the stillness, the silence,
the quiet of his presence

I leave to you sound of my mother's hmmmmm
her audible joy of eating
under the summer sun--
the last piece of lemon pie
or the sum of her many labors--
homemade ice cream,
vanilla, of course

I leave to you the beauty of my sister
her once long raven hair
her body like a goddess
her heart an ever-blooming lotus

I leave to you the boundless energy of my brother
who I never thought I'd see sit still
until he had his daughter
and his life was fulfilled

I leave to you the many loves I've had
and the many that I've lost
I leave to you the strength I carry
in my voice and
in my walk
I leave to you my only song
Joy, Joy, and more Joy
and only ever sometimes, loss.
I leave to you my laughter
that came as easily as breathing
I leave to you my sorrow
that never meant a thing
I leave to you my books of poetry,
history, and story. They made my life
bearable when I thought I could go no longer.

I do not leave regret, or anger or despair
I do not take it with me either
for I am finished, I am air

I am finished with motion
I am still as stones
I am bones
I am as quiet as the sound of a morning
after rain
I am home
Home again, home again
jiggedy jig, home again, home again
jiggedy jig

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tyner Septet and the Sound of Infinity

Well, I was not disappointed in the McCoy Tyner show at the Lensic this past Saturday. I've seen him several times in his typical genre of trio or quartet--in Seattle. But this past weekend he played in a larger group, which was a great way to showcase him at this stage in his career. His bassist is one of the most amazing musicians I've ever seen! He has such a range.

The most amazing thing, besides his playing my favorite song for his encore, was his trombonist. For the second encore, he comes onto the stage without his instrument and picks up 5 different sizes of conch and plays them as if they were horns. The sound was so crisp and with such range. In yoga, the sound of the Conch is the sound of Ong (OM)--the sound of Infinity. The Experience of God within the Self. So, to see it played with such mastery. Wahe Guru!

"Through time man started writing about the chanting of Ong and reading about it, but not practicing it. The result was that he eventually forgot what the sound is and then he became a shopper. He went from one place to another, to another, to another. He went from one person to another person to another person, asking, begging for happiness. He went from one religion to another, from one place to another, from one house to another, just asking for peace. He forgot that what is he is asking for, is within himself." --Yogi Bhajan, September 26, 1974