Obama for President
Well, okay, I know he hasn't even declared that he's running yet in '08, but I just have to say it anyway. I've just finished The Audacity of Hope, Obama's new book about politics and life in America today. He's speaks with insight, careful thought, and with equanimity whenever and wherever possible, which is happily enough, quite often. He talks about politics and policy the that I think about them. The two sides are not that far apart--and when they appear to be it's more often than not an illusion of 'media masterminding' than reality.
The book addresses in its various chapter titles--faith, family, race--the central themes of his life both personal and political. It's a great short history on foreign and domestic policy as well as an insightful look at some of the hot topics in today's headlines: abortion, race, labor relations, etc.
I highly recommend the book--to everyone from both sides of the aisle. If anything, he may be the answer to a long-awaited prayer--my mother has said she'll vote for him, which means she'll be voting for a democrat should he get the nomination. And I have waited a long time for her to say that!
It's not that I don't think H. Clinton has the capacity, skill, or integrity to be President of these United States. She certainly does. It's not that I don't recognize my own hidden misogyny in saying that I don't believe the American people have it within them to vote for a woman--I do. But still, if I had to say today what I hope for, it's that the junior senator from Illinois makes his bid in time to be successfully lofted into the heart of the democratic party and the people of the United States--whatever party they may claim allegiance to--so that as we approach these inevitably challenging times, we have someone of caliber, self-awareness, diplomacy, and faith to take us through them. I believe Barack Obama is that person.
I had a long conversation with a friend last night while I was packing my bags and getting ready for my trip today. We were talking about life--how to live and not just exist; how we were grateful that we no longer wanted to die every day; how much our friends meant to us now; what we would do differently; and I mentioned how I just wished there were more 'something', joie de vivre, something....
Then the conversation moved to relationship and whether that particular longing was the hole that wants to be whole? Would we really be happier in a marriage? I started crying as the truth came bubbling up from me: that going home always brings up such tremendous grief about not being loved. And in the moment of saying it and all the follow-up conversation around it, we realized that it's always and ever about being able to receive the love that's there. It may not look like what you expect (husband, kids, etc.) but nevertheless there is love. And it has to begin within me.
Going home is challenging because for many years I was an the outsider (religiously, politically, you-name-it); I guess I still am but I don't feel it so strongly any more. I'm less defensive. (We do grow up--sometimes.) But there is still the ache when I go home of being the unmarried child. For years it felt as if my family didn't even know how to relate to me outside of a relationship. That's changing too, over time. But the ache remains when I witness my beautiful family and their long, mostly happy marriages and their gorgeous, talented kids--who are well on their way to adulthood now. Oh well. Buck up as they say in the pictures.
Because in the end, it's always about my relationship with myself. I have had those moments where I'm in the flow of life and love and even the softed breeze can feel like God is caressing my cheek. I've experienced the cathedral wtihin me. I've felt the heights. But it's always nice to have a friend sit on your couch drinking yogi tea remind you of the truth of things: It's an inside job.
Response from a Reader re: Women and Sikhism
The larger question this raises for me is to what extent is Bani metaphor and to what extent divine inspiration. I think it's clear to most Sikhs that the SGGS is not taken as a literal document, which is in direct contrast to how some/most evangelical Christians view the Bible . . . Sikh Dharma and its numerous teachers including the Siri Singh Sahib (SSS) commonly have stated that the SGGS is a "living Guru" and we certainly attempt to treat it as such, with much respect and decorum. The implication of this is that we should also revere the Guru's Bani as divine inspiration. The SSS oft said, "The Word is God, and God is the Word." This latter concept tends to argue that the Guru's Bani should be taken as literal, though not necessarily to be un-examined or even un-questioned. Conversely, the SGGS is also explicitly composed of bani from different saints, sages, and Gurus, and even of the writings of the six Sikh Gurus that are included show a progression of thought over almost two centuries.
After having performed many paats of the SGGS, I have wondered whether the reason that the writings of saints other the Sikh Gurus were included was to accentuate the concept that Sikh Dharma in particular and spirituality in general should be an evolutionary paradigm rather than static. This is the anti-thesis of fundamentalism, whether of "the Book" (i.e., Jewish, Christian, & Muslim) or other faiths including Sikhism.
I've also thought of the SGGS as being haiku-like. Reading in Gurmukhi, much of the Guru's bani provides only a framework with which to contemplate many different levels of meaning. This is why each time I read the SGGS it seems different to me. Of course, it's not different, but I am (hopefully), and so I keep seeing it with new or evolving eyes, and hence learning new ideas. This also fits in with the concept that the purpose of the Bani is to challenge our thinking or wake us up from sleep-walking through our day. So, in that sense, encountering something offensive (like a passage denigrating either gender, or other religions) is like a Zen stick thunking you on your shoulder to keep you awake during meditation. Similarly, encountering a transcendent passage is exhilarating and stays with you long into your day (or night).
Sat Purkh's Reply:
I can't read the gurmukhi yet (this next year's resolution) but in studying with Ek Ong Kaar I've recognized how much of it is, like you say, a framework that is open to many interpretations, just as English translations of the bible can vary so greatly. Even here at KRI where I work, there are so many issues raised about translating Yogiji's teachings.
But seeing it as a living guru speaks to me not so much as a 'literal' understanding but a relationship. And so, as someone who's done many paats, you can speak to how you relate to it differently each time you read it because you are changing. I haven't finished my first sahaj paat yet but I know the same is true for me with my favorite works of literature--each time I read them there is something new that speaks to me in a different way because I'm in a different place in space and time.
But yes, I believe that the evolution of thought is definately implicated by the different voices in the SGGS. Even by the 10 gurus themselves....Nanak bowed to Angad; Angad in turn bowed to Amar Das, etc. There is one light, but all the voices and perspectives make the light brighter. A friend here had a lovely way of putting it, she said to me, You carry the naad, I carry sukhmani (which she reads every day), others carry seva, others carry bana, etc. Together we can contain the entire practice. I liked that. So, the many voices in the SGGS can represent an evolution of thought but also simply the facets of the diamond mind. And the bits that we don't like can act as the whip to wake us up as you say.
ps Cat Came Home
For any of you who were worried, as I was, my cat came home last night smelling of dryer sheet. Evidently he had found some cubby hole in a neighboring home and holed up next to the dryer vent. Clever Cat.
Being a woman and a Sikh
I was recently asked to address the misogyny found in the SGGS and how I deal with it as a modern, feminist woman. Here is my response that I thought was broad enough to share with you all.
I grew up in a conservative Christian home and my family are still very faithful bhaktis of that path. So, I've been conditioned from the beginning to 'overlook', not that I didn't scream and have fits once I became a feminist about the way women were regarded in the church I grew up in as well as in scripture across the different faiths. I've definately lived through my rebellion and come out the other side recognizing that I"d thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
Religion is a vehicle created by humans. I'm fairly new to this path ( a few years) and so the veneration that people regard the guru's bani hasn't quite sunk in with me. The Bible and the Koran are also 'inspired' literature and there's a lot of terrible stuff in there. Don't get me wrong, I was drawn to this path because of the shabd--the sound current. I'm a singer and a sound healer and so the study of the naad is pivotal to my understanding and experience of 'god'. However, it was still written by men--even in an enlightened state. So, in as much as the bani has been codified into a "religion" it reflects the times and the norms of men (and women). Let's face it, there are still a lot of stereotypes that continue to live out in our own contemporary culture e.g. commercials where men are made to look like bafoons, the continuous use of the female form to sell things via breasts and thighs, as well as the preemptive strike regarding Clinton, H., and Obama. Except in that little drama we get to throw in race as well.
As for how I address it within myself and my own experience of the SGGS, because another male friend has asked me the same thing in the past, the bride is all of us (male and female) and the groom is that experience of ourselves that is god. So our ego is the bride--who in my own experience does do incredibly stupid and willful things! And the groom is also me, when I am in the flow of life, when I am open, when I am free of my 'little plans and designs'. So, when I read the passages that make your skin crawl, I have to just remember that God is everything, the good and the bad, and my mind's resistance to that is just a continual reminder that I've yet to master the polarity and see the god in all. There is war, there is hatred, there is prejudice and it comes from god the same way that new green on the pinons, or crisp bright mornings like today with everything covered in snow, or love, or patience, or good neighbors.
And sometimes, you just have to go on faith, which is why I'm so grateful for our two-sided path here in 3HO. We not only have the gift of the guru's bani, we also have our own experience of the sound current within our own bodies, minds, and spirits. So when doubt arises, as it naturally will, we have something that can always bring us back--our own experience and awareness. wahe guru.
Let it Snow...oh no!
It's been snowing all day, which is, admittedly, quite beautiful and perfectly seasonal. But I'm not a terribly good snow driver and I have to get to the airport in a couple of days, plus my cat has been missing since early this morning. So, as beautiful as it is, please make it stop so my cat will come home and the roads will be clear by Friday!
I don't know that I'll be able to write while I'm away, so here's wishing you all a happy holiday: Hannukah, Winter Solstice, Guru Gobind Singh B-day, Christmas, and New Year--whatever suits your fancy! May it be bright and beautiful and filled with friends and family. May you travel safely to and from and may the turn of the new year fill you with hope, clear intention, and right action.
Best to you all--my readers, my friends, and my family. I look forward to sharing the new year with you all.
Seen at the Cinema and other theatrical notes
The Pursuit of Happyness
This new vehicle for Will Smith and his son is beautiful, intense, and it doesn't let you off the hook--even with the happy ending postscript. I am continually amazed by the nuance of Smith's performances over the years. For a guy who started out in comedy, he can really play the edges of a character. He's seen running in the film so often that it could become comedic if it didn't haunt you with the desparation the running, running that is modern poverty. There are moments when his face so elegantly and painfully portrays his will even in the face of defeat. His desparation. His determination. The poignant relationship between he and his son.
There's so much and I don't think I can adequately speak to it all--so I'll just leave it at this: It's a hard movie to watch and you don't walk away feeling all fuzzy inside. It's intense and it doesn't let you go.
On other fronts:
I watched The Best of Youth, a six-hour Italian drama that was produced for television. It was so amazing. I just loved it. The perfect thing to do on a Saturday when you're not feeling well and just want an excuse to lay around. The story of two brothers and the divergent paths over 4 decades. Beautifully told. Richly embellished. And with enough left unsaid that you get to walk away with a few unanswered questions--which is a feat given the length of the film. Rent it and hunker down in this snow storm we're getting and enjoy with hot cocoa....
I've been reading Krishnamurti again. It's been awhile. He's a great teacher and in his written lectures, he repeatedly challenges the 'audience', the reader, to follow the logic with him; don't just listen but process the question for oneself. One of his suppositions that he queries a lot is that inherent in the nature of identity is conflict. Because if I'm Sikh and you are Christian, or I am Palestinian and you are an Israeli, or I'm white and you're black then there is inherently conflict. And the evidence of this supposition is everywhere. It seems obvious. And yet, my gut rejected the inherent truth of this supposition.
The first principle of Buddhism is that 'there is suffering.' And the acceptance and ultimately transcendence of suffering is the point of the path. Yogi Bhajan says, point blank, that this isn't true. Suffering is not fundamental. So, in looking at this question of conflict, I had a precedent before me that said, Maybe it isn't true? In our tradition, polarity is described as that thing which cannot exist without the other. So, what many people perceive as conflict is actually a polarity that hasn't learned how to co-exist in harmony--that hasn't learned how to relate authentically to each other's identity within the spectrum that is the polarity.
Now, granted, you don't necessarily need an Israeli in order to be able to define a Palestinian, so the definition doesn't fit perfectly. But it's safe to say that what is perceived as a conflict of interest is really just a failure in perceiving the dynamic: One cannot exist without the another in the geo-political world that we've generated in the Middle East. In fact, what would happen if the 'conflict' ceased to exist? Where would people place their energy, their talent, and their memories? Lack of imagination, misinformation, rigid application of tribe, law, and family, as well as simply resistance to the nature of the relationship is at the root of the stubborn idea that peace is not possible. If indeed it is a polarity or paradox, how do we elevate the conversation so that what is perceived as conflict begins to find the common ground--the continuum in which we can all co-exist together--right to liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness comes to mind, from our own foundation document.
I've seen the birth of conflict, from simple differences, in my own life. In my pursuit of all things spiritual, I eventually came to the feet of the guru, the sound current of truth and bliss. But what I saw as my own path, my mother saw as a rejection of hers. I will admit, that for years, my seeking was simply a rejection of my youth. So the roots of her feelings do lie in my own actions. But once I found what I was looking for, it no longer felt like rejection. In fact, I saw the truth in both. It's hard to describe, but I felt more Christian than I had in years AFTER I became Sikh. But even though my perspective had shifted, it didn't necessarily follow that my mother's had. So, even though the dialogue continues, I often have to remember that although I don't perceive it, from her perspective, the difference is a conflict.
How do we get beyond these irreconcilable conflicts? Is the understanding of polarity the key? If we begin to understand things as a relationship--a dialogue, not an argument--then would conflict cease to be? Imagine.
I just read about Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, and all the flak he's been receiving re: the title. There is so much rhetoric around Israel that when someone actually calls a spade a spade, he in turn gets called an anti-semite. Well we all know that that claim is ridiculous. HE won the Nobel Peace Prize for God's sake for negotiating one of the few successful peace deals in the Middle East.
I personally look forward to reading his new book and seeing his perspective on the situation as it is now. Carter as an ex-president has done more to promote peace and goodwill than all the other ex-presidents put together. He's thoughtful, he's faithful, and he's a man of dialogue not diatribes. The fact that he's willing to put his reputation on the line at this stage of the game and toward a VERY touchy subject only shows his caliber. The unwillingness of the US press to even acknowledge the legitimacy of his perspective only shows their continued duplicity and unwillingness to see the situation as it actually IS and not the rhetoric that continually claims the right to illegal and illigitimate means toward an end that I don't even know that is their right to claim, much less moral.
How escalated does this need to get for people to sit back and look at what is actually happening? Our resistance to what is only makes the situation worse. And we can't trust the US press to say anything fair or equitable about it. We're lost in a storm of extremes. This is the one are where I do thank god for Sasha Cohen, the comedian. He at least can laugh at the knee-jerk reaction that calls everyone an anti-semite that doesn't hold the party line, but he can get away with it because he's laughing at everyone! Yes there are bigots out there, but I feel safe in saying without any reservation that Jimmy Carter is not one of them.
Into the open sea
My friend Sahaj Kaur recently sent me this poem by Ranier Marie Rilke, who just happens to be one of my favorite poets. I thought I would pass it along.
I believe in all that has never been spoken.
I want to free whatever waits within me,
So that which no one has dared to wish for,
May for once spring clear,
Without my contriving.
I want to mirror your immensity
I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
But this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
The way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
These deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
Streaming through widening channels
Into the open sea.
--Rainer Maria Rilke
Advice from a Failure
This is a little quote my sponsor gave me years ago to keep things in perspective. Enjoy! Remember, you are the only you you've got!
Advice from a Failure
You do not need to be loved—not at the cost of yourself. The single relationship that is truly central in a life is a relationship with your self. It is rewarding to find someone you like, but essential to like yourself. It is quickening to recognize that someone is a good and decent human being, but it is indispensable to view your own self that way. It is a delight to discover people who are worthy of respect, admiration and love, but it is vital to believe yourself deserving of respect, admiration and love, for you cannot live in someone else. Of all the people that you will ever know in a lifetime, you are the only one that you will never lose or leave. To the question of your life, you’re the answer, and to the problems of your life, you’re the solution. –Jo Coudert
Seen at the Cinema
This had gotten really bad reviews so I was questioning whether I should go or not. I'm glad I went. It was charming, moving, if occassionally over the top. I had my doubts about Jack Black as a serious romantic lead, but he is charming. Words are unnecessary for Jude Law; however, he was luminous as the vulnerable father cum playboy. The two lead roles played by Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet were all too familiar, especially the role of Iris (winslet), however the Amanda character is becoming fairly familiar lately, as well. Either falling in love with men who can never return it or never quite being able to go there emotionally, it's the fate of many a modern woman. Their transformations are equal parts hollywood fantasy and old wives' tale wisdom.
The chemistry between each of the couples is very good, convincing even. It's true that it's a chick flick (oh how I hate that term) and at times it's a bit too corny of one, but overall I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the characters, I related to their -isms and I rejoiced in their transformation. Love is good--even when it's corny.
I was lucky to attend yet another amazing class with Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa on the Anand Sahib. You know a teacher is great when they give you an experience, not just information and the space that she holds does just that--you feel suspended within the sound current. Everyone should have such an opportunity to study with her.
of the Anand Sahib
Bliss. Bliss. Everyone
talks of bliss.
only wisdom gives you
the reality of living
in tune with your
The Guru's kindness
allows you to live
in this knowing
The Master's touch
destroys all error
& is the salve that
heals your sight,
so that you can see
the true reality
If within you the sound
are broken and your
path is made clear
This is bliss
When Wisdom has shown
you how to live
in tune with your True Self.
Now on Video
I saw three different videos recently--the reviews will be fairly short and to the point:
A Prairie Home Companion
If they had let it be simply what it was--a musical comedy variety show, then it would have been brilliant. But the illusion to the 40s and the 'ghost' just didn't work for me.
A little bit more serious than I expected, but overall, a well-told story and brilliantly acted by the all-British cast.
The Beat My Heart Skipped
An intense French film about an intense young man facing a "Saturn Return" crisis. He's 28 and for all intents and purposes a thug. But his mother was a musician and he has a chance meeting with someone who reawakens the artist within him and turns his life on its head. Interesting. Romain Duras I think is the name of the actor--very intense.
Stars my favorite male archetype, Clive Owen, and the lovely Hellen Mirren. Cute. A good movie to take home and watch with your mom.
A Book Review
The Blind Side
by Michael Lewis
I love sports. Almost any sport. If I had to rank them it would fall like this: Basketball, Baseball, and Football, but for the big games, almost nothing beats the Super Bowl. One game, one day. No winner by four. No back and fourth. Just show up and play until someone wins and loses.
Michael Lewis has written a great book about a sport that isn't known for it's literary history or even it's statistical norms. Football, known for its brute force, doesn't lend the mind to investigation, but investigate he did. He presents a really compelling history of the changes in the modern game, beginning with a new kind of offense, sometimes called the 'west coast' offense and moving to the existence of a new kind of terror on the field called Lawrence Taylor and finally closing with the idea of a new player--a specific kind of athlete with extraordinary physical demands--the Left Tackle. Interweaved with this evolution of the game is the story of one young man who through chance and pure physical presence gets a chance to become what will probably be the epitome of the new Left Tackle: HUGE, quick, long arms, fast and nimble feet, and big hands.
I laughed out loud so many times reading this book, e.g. 'the great mormon grade grab'; he really has a way with words. Plus it was a great primer on all the things we miss on the line when we're busy watching the ball. If you have a sports fan in your life, this is a great book to recommend to them. And even if you're not a sports fan, it's a compelling story about the unimaginable difference one family can make in the life of a boy who's family had long deserted him.
Lewis doesn't spend too much time on the have and have-not components of the story or their implications. The rich guy in the book is his buddy from grade school; however, there is just enough in there to make you squirm and to make you elated at the prospect that change can happen, that influences can be positive, even in the midst of class, power, and racism in the south.
This is primarily a book about sports and about the athletes that play them and the coaches that innovate the game--or not. Good read!
Seen at the Cinema
I finally saw Babel yesterday afternoon. I spoke to a friend immediately after and she asked, What's it about? And I had to be honest and say, I don't know. Not that I couldn't go into some post-modern explication of the miscommunication of cultures (fairly obvious from the title), of families, of power, etc. But ultimately it felt more about loss and recovering from loss and the lengths people will go to in order to avoid their feelings: whether it's a trip to Morocco to heal a broken marriage, or a teenager's misguided attempts at love and attention. And then on top of it all was just chance and misjudgement and the abuse of power along with fear and all the things that go with it.
It was intense and disturbing and poignant. It was beautiful. A lot like life.
A day in the 'city'
I miss those days in the city when I would head out from my apartment and walk downtown for an espresso and a biscuit with jam. Then do a little window shopping and on to a matinee movie. Finally, turn around and come back up the hill for a crepe and a chai and a walk through the park and then home again, home again.
I re-live a bit of it occasionally here, but I have to drive which takes some of the 'city' air out of it all. Nevertheless, a cup of lap sang xiu xiong (sp?) and scone at the Teahouse, reading a new book is a great way to start the day. Followed by a stroll downtown and a matinee movie somewhat fits the bill. Plus I don't have to schlep everything home by hand--cars are useful sometimes.