Where's the Panic Room?
So I have this strange quirk in my psyche that arises very rarely but when it does it's soooo hard to contain. In general, I come off as a very self-confident, capable woman--ready to take on the world, so to speak. Then out of nowhere, I will have a panic attack that sends me reeling--and I won't even know why. Granted, there's a lot going on right now but still. . . .
I think I'm nervous about my upcoming trip and performance in Minneapolis. And although I'm excited, I'm also not good at being away from home for very long. So, although I can recognize the circumstances that are causing this tremendous anxiety, I can't seem to do anything about it.
breathe, breathe, breathe
So much life
so little time. . . . there is something happening within me that is hard to describe. An elevation, a pure happiness whose origin I'm unaware of. It's a rich time here in the community: lots of meetings, lots of visitors, the celebration of Guru Ram Das' Birthday with chanting in the evenings, the extraordinary fall weather here in N. New Mexico. I walked into the opening gurdwara for Khalsa Council last night and a friend from New York asked me later--"What was that big smile on your face for?" and I didn't have an answer. Although I will admit that watching everyone come into the gurdwara for KC always feels like some grand parade, a spectacle of elegance and shining light in the form of people. People like you and me.
meanwhile my mother has broken her hip and had surgery this week. It's brought up a lot of 'stuff' in me: fear, anxiety, insecurity but also courage and faith and hope. To face the aging of your parents is scary and yet, it's not about me, the child (not that I'm not affected by it). It's about serving them. In the middle of feeling so lost and scared a friend looked me in the eye and said "You can do it. It's your attachment to who they were that keeps you in fear of serving them as they are now. You can do it because you love them and if the tables were turned, they would do it for you." And it was like I'd gotten a booster shot of courage. I knew that I could--despite my fear, my vulnerability, their vulnerability.
Love in its many forms is informing my life today--perhaps that is the origin of my happiness. Or perhaps it's simply being with this breath, and this one, and this one, and smiling along the way.
So I mentioned that I was taking a jazz piano workshop this weekend, right? Well, the first phone call I get this morning when I come into the office is from an old friend from California. Her mom, who lives in Albuquerque, wants to get rid of her piano and thought of me! Just when I was wondering how I was ever going to practice!
The workshop was a bit hard to follow; it's been so long since I've played and my theory has about 25 years of dust on it. But it was good to be there anyway, to get back into the language of music, and to learn some of the jazz techniques: rhythm, tri-tone substitutions, and whole tone, chromatic, and harmonic minor scales. I should probably take a few lessons, but I think I'll start with just getting my hands on the piano; playing with scales; learning to relate to chord progressions, etc. Then see where it goes.
Later that evening I went to the teacher's performance. It was amazing. There's just nothing better than live jazz in my opinion. It moves the kundalini like nothing else--and all you have to do is listen! No breath of fire, no spine flex, no pain! I highly recommend this guys new album: Kevin Hays The Dreamer. Brilliant!
I've never been much of a planner; have always preferred to be in the flow. However, this next year is going to be a whirlwind and so a bit of planning is necessary to make it all come together.
First--I've been invited to Spain to sing at the yoga festival there. This would be my first trip to Europe (outside of a day or two in London as a kid) and serendipitously it falls on my 40th birthday! Soooo, Paris it is and then the NW coast of Spain, which means language study for the foreseeable future. I've studied French and Spanish off and on over the years but have never become very comfortable in conversation. Hopefully this impending trip will motivate me.
Second--Also because it's a big year (40th birthday and all) I'm getting motivated to do things that have always been on my list, beginning with this weekend: I'm taking a jazz piano workshop tomorrow. One of my oldest and dearest fantasies has been to learn all my favorite jazz standards, throw on a gorgeous red dress, and perform somewhere. I figure now that I'll look good in that red dress, it's time to brush up on the piano!
Meanwhile, I'm off to Minneapolis for my first performance as a recording artist in a week or so; I'm probably heading to Los Angeles at some point as well; and the list goes on. I guess planning isn't so bad after all.
attachment versus love
So my meditation on attachment continues. I woke up this morning at 3am and couldn't get back to sleep. After a conversation with a friend last night, I recognized once again the seeds of attachment--hope. Challenged to hold a positive projection, I admitted that it was too painful for me; it brings up so many old habit patterns. I simply need to wish for happiness--for him and for me--nothing more, nothing less. Beyond that, it's in the guru's hands.
Yet, in my aspiration to benefit others and in my hopes of planting positive seeds and burning my negative ones, I awoke this morning and found myself doing the prayer for a godly man--Sopurkhs. After my eleven repetitions, the seed of attachment that had once again awakened in my heart dissolved and I was able to simply wish for his happiness and rise up for my sadhana knowing that this present moment was all I needed. And that whatever hope for a future might find it's way into my consciousness, I can simply use prayer and surrender to give it back to the guru. For this moment, and this one, and this one, are all we have--and happiness is generated now--not in the future or in the past.
May we all have the strength
to stay in the present moment
May we all recognize the seeds
of attachment and release them
to the wind so that we no longer
May we water the seeds of
contentment and love and friendship
May we wish only for happiness
and recognize everything else
as only a dream
The Pearl of Great Price
When I was a kid, the story known as The Pearl of Great Price always baffled me. I never understood why someone would sell everything for a pearl--something that may have been valuable but what use would it be in their life, right? Even as a child I had an acute awareness of replacement value--you may sell something for cheap, but to get another one you're going to pay a price. So I was stunned that a man would exchange everything for this pearl of great price. I couldn't comprehend the idea of 'treasuring' something to that extent.
Later, during Kundalini Teacher Training actually, I began to get a sense of the value of this 'pearl' and I began to ask myself, What is that thing that I would exchange everything for? Because that's ultimately the meaning of the story. I began to realize that it was my Self, my essential goodness, my purity, my being a woman. That was the great pearl; indeed, I was that pearl.
My teacher said to me: "You are a gem, a jewel. If a man isn't ready to take positive, committed action to be with you, then I make no excuses for him." So, if a man isn't ready to exchange everything to be with me; and I in turn to be with him--why want that? And yet, I see myself repeatedly in my life making that choice--being unable to value myself, not allowing myself to be the pearl that I am, the Grace of God that Yogi Bhajan speaks about. And that is about me--not about anyone else. But seeing it is the beginning of changing it--and therein lies my hope.
I weigh these things in my mind and on my heart as I look once again at who I've chosen in the past--and who has chosen me--as I try to make my way through this labyrinth that is love. Perhaps I'm too naive or simplistic--perhaps I don't recognize the complexity. But after years of looking for my soulmate and longing for my destiny, I now simply want to be with the one I enjoy being with--easy, right? Someone who makes me laugh, someone who's easy to talk to, someone who makes me feel beautiful and safe and loved, someone who's easy to love, someone who awakens in me the desire to serve, the desire to humble myself, the desire to be truly a woman.
My mother has served and loved my father for more than 50 years. In my twenties I often thought of their relationship with some measure of contempt, saying to myself, I'm not going to jump and fetch. And yet, now, I see their relationship as this beautiful dynamic of service and love to one another--he in his way and she in hers. And seeing their happiness, her happiness, I know that my contempt for 'jump and fetch' was wrong thinking. The privilege of serving another person, the one you love, is the greatest gift of all and the only true happiness. Should I get that privilege I hope to honor it and cherish it in every moment. Because the fruits of such a marriage, the work of bliss, is a loving family--and that I can say with certainty is what I was gifted with -- that is the pearl of great price.
Another take on karmas is that everything in your life is a karmic experience--doesn't have a reality from its own side--but often we think it is real--from its own side, meaning inherent. For example, my beloved. Affection, care and respect naturally arise when I spend time with this person--that's all lovely. But what is interesting to me at this point--and what one of my therapists was trying to show me (I think)--is that feelings arose within me that were new--safety, the desire to serve, containment, the sense of being beautiful. And because I had never felt them before with anyone else, I thought that they came from him--from his own side. However, I now see (with this understanding of karmic appearances) that those new experiences arose within me because I am now ready to experience them. Some seeds of past goodness have begun to ripen, which is why I am here, which is why I met him, which is why I could experience safety, beauty, containment and the desire to serve when I was with him. It doesn't necessarily mean that those things are inherently his; yes, he may have those qualities, but what is important to me and my own process is that I recognize that I am ready to receive them. I am now a proper vessel.
This view helps me to lessen my attachment to him as the one, unique vehicle to deliver those experiences to me. And they were grand experiences--to feel safe, to feel beautiful, to desire to serve, to feel contained--I want to experience them again. But I can know that because they arise from myself, I am not dependent on him to manifest them. They are an expression of me.
May everyone feel safe
May everyone know their own beauty
May everyone have the peace of containment
May everyone experience the desire to serve
May we know that all our experiences come from within
so that we can be free of attachment, desire, and anger
and ultimately of ignorance and suffering
May we all be happy
So I spent the weekend listening to my Tibetan Buddhist Teacher, Robina Courtin. I got a lot of clarity and a real sense of purpose and action--not quite hope, but close enough. Her teacher, Lama Yeshe, has a summary of 'karmic appearances', things to look for in your life today that show you the root or seeds of past actions. He listed several karmic appearances for past sexual misconduct; one in particular resonated with me: your partner has lots of people vying for him.
I am continually attracted to men who operate within their own variation of the harem. Not that they're doing anything wrong, necessarily, but there have been lots of opportunities to work on my jealousy, to say the least. It's been a steady theme throughout my life to question, Why me? Why don't my relationships work out? My parents have been married 50 years; my brother and sister's marriages are each approaching 25 years. If I truly accept the hypothesis of karma, then I have an answer; and I have a solution. I'm not just a failure or morally incompetent. My experiences are the direct result of past actions; and my instincts and habits arise from those seeds as well. And I can begin planting new seeds. I can resolve to never participate in sexual misconduct again, because I truly never want to suffer in this way again.
The Sikh Dharma path has an understanding of karma as well; although it's not as intense a focus as in Buddhism. But either way, I can begin to make the changes today, so that my tomorrow can be better and my life can be of benefit to others. It's truly a relief to recognize and own my own experience and commit to changing it. It's also freeing to turn my attention away from all those things I long for and simply direct my gaze at those things I can truly make a difference in--my own actions, my own life.
I have begun a purification practice within our teachings called Kirtan Kriya. It is said to heal and clear the arcline, which is damaged by sexual misconduct. I am committing to 120 days, which I've never been able to accomplish before. 40-yes. 90-once. But 120? With a true heart and a steady effort, I hope to see my way to the end of suffering and purify my past so that I can have a bright and ever shining present.
Got a Fever
Literally, but also because my favorite Buddhist teacher is in town this weekend--and fever or not--I'm going to be there! Robina Courtin was ordained as a Tibetan Nun in 1977. She has been traveling and teaching since then. She's a force to be reckoned with, so much so, that a documentary film has been made about her life--Chasing Buddha--check it out!
She's funny, razor-sharp, and absolutely a stickler about what the Buddha taught....no fuzzy edges. At one point in my life, I thought I would pack my bags and follow her. But somehow I found my way here instead.
I'm reading a treatise by the Dalai Lama on the Heart Sutra; in it he says that all religions are essentially the same in that they help the human heart become compassionate, ethical, and one hopes, experience happiness. But he does say that it's best to choose one and stick to it. I've done that--and yet I still find the teachings of the Buddha so compelling and helpful in my own negotiations around attachment and identity that I turn to them again and again. And I confess, I love this woman. She inspires me. So, I go--despite how I feel--and hopefully the message, the dharma, will burn through me and heal me and uplift me to turn ever more deeply toward the path that my heart has chosen, the feet of the guru, the song of the naad, the stillness of the heart.
I just received a photo from someone of my performance at the Yogiji Birthday Party. I'm grateful to have some memento of that evening; it was really special to sing a brand new song in front of so many people, especially one that was so close to my heart. The song's title is I Never Knew Him and that is the case for thousands upon thousands of people touched by his teachings.
I've played around the image (because the quality wasn't that great) and came up with an homage to Warhol....I kind of like it. Hope you do too.
Remember those reports we did as kids? It's the first week of school and you're asked what you did on summer vacation....well, I just got back from mine and I took a long hiatus from updating this blog as well. Partly because I don't know what to say and partly because I'm afraid of saying too much.
So here's a brief report in lieu of my usual philosophical and heartfelt ruminations:
My parents' 50th Anniversary party was a big success--thanks to my sister-in-law Jamie's amazing commemorative DVD, hard work and unrelenting pursuit of perfection (she could be on the next Lexus commercial--ha!). I was told I should be a caterer (the food was pretty good if I do say so myself) and my sister's brownies and lemon bars were the icing on the cake, so to speak. We had up to 100 guests and friends and family came in from great distances. It was a sight to behold. A good time was had by all.
The remainder of the vacation was spent watching the US Open and eating leftovers. The lake was too flooded for me to get any swimming in; so it was rest and relaxation and a little reading on the side.
I was 'randomly' searched going and coming at the airport. Hard to believe it's random when you have a turban on. 99% of all known terrorists are men and they have a line up of women being searched? Our tax dollars at work.
Going to church with my family is always interesting. I can't help but speak up. The notion of free will came up again. I believe I'll go to my grave trying to figure that one out. They were studying from Romans I think. But much of the literature says the same thing, whether it's from the Koran, the Guru Granth or the Bible: God brings you to God; everything is grace; etc. Yogiji said that 95% of our life is predetermined but that it's the remaining 5% that counts. I guess that's what I need to meditate on and quit worrying about the rest.
As for the rest, I take the fifth, for now.