As Within, So Without

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I captured the Sun’s single appearance today. It happened for only a fraction of a minute while I was dancing, taking a break from sitting while doing some deep inner work. The wicker shelving unit that the items in the photo are resting on was a recent gift that found its way to me. I have always loved wicker furniture, the natural feeling and organic shapes.

I was finally able to bring treasures that had been in boxes for years out into my living space because they previously did not have an appropriate container to support them. With all the inner work and self-care that I have been doing lately I can easily see the analogy. I am creating a safe and sacred place for my treasures to be seen and to reflect the surrounding light.

The Cosmic Inside Joke

 

‘Attachment to this world makes it seem real, while detachment makes it a wondrous play’ Amma

 

Recently I spent two blissful days in the presence of my beloved satguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi or Amma (mother) as she is more commonly called. I am usually able to meditate more easily, to reach deeper absorption levels faster while in Her presence and this time was no exception. I was able to see the inner workings of my mind more clearly, becoming very aware of the subtlety of my ego appearing in various thoughts and judgements.

 

As I became aware of every thought or judgement that passed through my mind I would say to myself, ‘I see you mind, think you’re so subtle that I wouldn’t notice you, eh?’ Then I would laugh and shake my head. I think I was doing this enough that if someone were watching they would probably think that I was a bit ‘off’, that I was sharing an inside joke with myself or in this case my Self.

 

As I was serving lunch during the program, scooping out each spoonful of rice pasta, I received a myriad of different reactions from people. After the first scoop I would ask if they wanted another. This was my way of not giving too much at first to control any possible wasting of food. They could always come back for seconds so I thought this was a good way of distributing and serving the food. I had every reaction from ‘a little less please’ to ‘wow, really skimpy’ to looking away and rolling of the eyes or eye contact and a big smile. I noticed that I really wanted to explain myself when people expressed disapproval. I realized that I wanted to be ‘liked’ and when others disapproved of my methods I perceived that I was ‘not liked’ and would feel the need to explain my actions. As the line was moving rather quickly this made any kind of lengthy explanation impossible.

 

I also realized that the ‘others’ reactions were simply a reflection of the inner workings of my own mind. Here was my mind, its likes and dislikes, literally passing by me in the lunch line-up for me to observe. I had the choice again to react to each expression of praise or blame or to simply do my duty without attachment to the outcome. If I took the praise or blame personally it would only intensify my egos grip on my actions.

 

‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’ Shakespeare

 

The analogy of the screen and the film projector comes to mind to explain the roles of the mind and the witness or the Self. During meditation the mind is comparable to the film or the actual images being projected and the screen is comparable to the Self. The film is always changing scenes, actors and dialogue but the screen remains a screen and is unchanged by these images. It simply offers a place for the images to land. Through meditation we begin to identify more with the Self, to simply observe with detachment what the changing script of our lives is playing out. Meditation does not remove or end the minds constant chatter but allows us to be unswayed and unaffected, in essence to not be under it’s control.

 

The last few nights I have had many dreams that felt like watching movies. Quite often I can recognize myself in my dreams but I haven’t been in them recently. There are many plots, subplots, and drama of course but just as you watch a movie you know that it is only a movie, even if you laugh or cry there is a level of detachment because it is not happening ‘to you’. This is what I have experienced in the last few days.

 

 

‘Praise and blame, it’s all the same’ anonymous

 

The real test however came with the praise that I received from a woman traveling on the tour. I had not signed up for any seva (selfless service) before the program began thinking that I would just sign up during the program. I conveniently forgot how easy it is for me to get caught up in wanting to be around Amma at all times and many of the sevas are behind the scenes and away from Amma’s proximity.

 

So I signed up for veggie chopping the morning I would be heading back home. The hour before to be precise. I along with many others was given the task of cutting onions into quarters. There were only two onions that made my eyes tear up in the hour that I was there. It was the thought of how blessed I was to not only enjoy the program but also to be looking forward to dancing once I got back home that triggered tears to well up in my eyes.

 

It was my sniffling that caught the attention of the woman next to me and she said something about cutting the onions. I told her, ‘oh they’re actually not that strong, I was just thinking how grateful I am for all the experiences in my life and how many blessings I have,’ and then I added, ‘but the onions are a good cover story!’ Then I will never forget how she looked at me because I had seen that same look in my ex’s eyes so many times. A look of complete awe and wonder. He looked at me like that at the beginning of our relationship often and my ego loved it. It also loved all the attention, feelings of being special with each new song that he would write about me. It was a fairy tale come true until one day he began to see my undesirable human qualities and his perfect muse turned into a selfish bitch right before his very eyes.

 

When she snapped out of her reverence she said something about my not wanting things and that this is why I was able to feel gratitude. I was so perplexed at first at how she had come to that conclusion. Her mind had filled in the blanks with a story that made me different from her, perhaps I don’t know, but I said, ‘Oh don’t get me wrong, I have many desires and aspirations too.’ When I explained that I had to leave shortly to travel back home she said, ‘and you spent your last hour here?!’ She had no idea of my internal struggle to tear myself away from Amma’s presence long enough for one hour to serve lunch the other day or how I could be here now only because Amma was not present in the hall. I was aware of my mind enjoying the praise but I quickly shook my head and said, ‘It’s all Amma’s grace’ to take my self out of the picture and to place the credit where credit was due.

 

It wasn’t until after I returned home from the program that I saw the movie screen analogy. This has brought such a sense of relief to me and has also brought me closer to others. All of the reactions from those I served were merely reflections of the thought process that goes on in the mind. In each and every one of us. Knowing this brings me closer to others rather than further away which is how I usually feel because my ego would like me to believe that I am different and special from ‘others’.

 

In the past I have shied away from anything ‘stressful’ or anything that I could not do well to avoid disappointing others or receiving criticism. I would take criticism personally and use it later as punishment to be hard on myself. So my solution was to not get involved. As a result though I can see how I was not giving myself opportunities to grow, by seeing myself in others more clearly and a big part of seeing through dualism or separateness is the ability to see all of your Self in others.

Meditation relpaces lost hours of sleep

morning meditationAfter an eventful and exciting evening my mind was busy processing all the new information. I finally fell asleep and then woke up about one and a half hours later, my thoughts picking up from where they had left off. I tossed and turned for awhile and then decided to do the most unhelpful thing one can do to return to slumber – I looked at the clock. The time read 4:18 am. Then I did the math, ‘I’m getting up at 7am so that means I’ll have had a total of 4.5 hours sleep if I can fall asleep in the next 12 minutes.’ Then I did the most helpful thing one can do in this situation. I sat up and meditated for one hour from 4:30 to 5:30 am.

There is something about that time of the day that makes meditation easier for me. A teacher once said that it is the ideal time to meditate because the world around you is at it’s most quiet and still therefore it is easier to still your own mind. That certainly was the case this time and I found it easier to reach deeper levels of absorption. I also didn’t nod off at all during the hour of meditation and was able to get another hour of sleep afterwards.

I managed to work 8 hours within a 9 hour period that day without the aid of coffee or any other forms of caffeine. One hour of meditation seems to be equivalent to about 3-4 hours of sleep for me. I have heard others share similar experiences. If they are unable to sleep for whatever reason, they meditate. Resting the mind through observing thoughts or focusing on one-pointedness doesn’t happen in the same way when we sleep. REM cycles need a series of 90 minute intervals, whereas every moment counts during meditation.

So the next time I’m too excited to sleep I will not look at the clock. I will look at my mind.

Remembrance

Every year during Remembrance Day I think of my great uncle David. His mother described him as being ‘born before his time’ and that he ‘would have made a good hippie.’ However, he came of age during the Second World War in a time when a strapping, young man from a successful business family in Toronto was expected to enlist and serve his country.

From the stories I have heard about his frequent tendency to swear, dropping the ‘F’ bomb would be the only weapon that he would ever willingly deploy. He offered to go as part of a medical team but they wanted young, fit men like him to fight on the front lines. When he refused to go they made an example of him by publicly announcing his decision not to fight.

It was then that the family started receiving white feathers in the mail and on their doorstep. The white feather became a symbol of cowardice during the First World War. They continued to be distributed through the Second World War as a method to shame the men in the community who remained at home.

 

David seemed to have few options. I can only speculate as to why he did not join a recognized group that were exempt from being drafted. Perhaps his conscience would not allow him to hide behind a religion that he did not believe in. Moving to another country to seek asylum may not have been possible either during a world war. Would he have been let back into Canada after the war was over? Would he have had to leave his family and home forever?

In the end he was sent to prison and it was there that he was sexually assaulted. I have heard those who have faced this type of violence say that they can relate to the post traumatic stress that soldier’s experience. They both exhibit similar symptoms like hyper vigilance and night terrors. David did end up going to war when he went to prison. The battlefield looked different than the trenches in Europe but a young man’s spirit was killed nonetheless.

Shortly after he was released and came back home he was drafted again. This time he could see only one option. One day he came down the stairs and said to his mother, ‘I’m all fucked up.’ Then he went into the garage, started the car and took his own life.

I need to believe that there was another option that didn’t involve fighting in the war or going back to more abuse in jail or killing himself. I need to believe this for the selfish reason of wanting to have known my uncle. To have heard him tell his own stories about his life as a young man who lived well, grew old and who was able to explore the world around him.

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Queen of Wands

Queen of Wands

The Queen of Wands is the card that I received recently in a Samhain circle. This is the time in the Pagan calendar when the veil between worlds is thin and there is an opportunity to give thanks to ancestors and ask for their guidance. My immediate thought was ‘fire’ and I noticed that the ends of her hair appear to extend into flames similar to a rocket during lift off.

This reminded me of a first draft I had written a couple of years ago about the feelings I experienced after spending time with beings like Mother Meera and Amma. While I was near their physical proximity I would literally feel uplifted and found it easier to remain concentrated during meditation. A few days after I would feel very tired and literally ‘burnt out’.

The following is what I wrote two years ago and rediscovered recently:

After darshan with Mother Meera I received a visual of the after effects of glimpsing the divine. It is similar to a rocket that leaves the earth’s atmosphere, entering another ‘world’ as it were. When it returns to the earth’s atmosphere it burns upon re-entry. This is comparable to how I feel, burnt-out. I am tired, short-tempered (hot with anger). All of this of course after I have swung to the other extreme of experiencing joy and peace. This happens more intensely after I see Amma probably because I am around her for longer than a day and I consider Her to be my guru.

This re-entry period has shifted in the last two years and I no longer feel the similar symptoms of withdrawal that I have had in the past. Perhaps this happens just as one might experience nausea and faintness after donating blood for the first time but find that the next time is easier as the body has adjusted to the experience of losing a large amount of blood. As bliss is our natural state without the ego’s presence, when moving towards egolessness there is an adjustment period where the emotions surface and it appears that one is now angry or depressed. This can simply be an awareness of what any family member could attest to and has been on the receiving end at one time or another.

I was warned that people can experience intense emotions along the meditative journey. Many have stopped when they observed negative thoughts and emotions arising. The key is to not identify with any emotions, including ‘positive’ emotions, but rather to observe them. I was told that this was a natural part of the process that comes with meditation practice as your mind is becoming more purified through the concentration and focusing techniques.

Meditation is a hero’s journey. It is a constant decision to be courageous as one continues on the path. It is not for the faint of heart which is why I am curious why I have not yet abandoned the practice in the last 10 years since I started sitting with my mind. I can only attribute it to the grace of my guru whose unconditional love and compassion have guided me and given me the strength I needed to continue.

When I took a closer look at this particular Queen of Wands card I realized that we shared the same hair colour. This reminded me of a message that I have heard time and time again. Believing in your self is the key to experiencing all the love, answers, courage, energy, peace, happiness that we are searching for. It is the same message that is at the heart of the movie Kung Fu Panda. When the Dragon Warrior’s father tells his son Po the secret ingredient in his secret ingredient soup is nothing, that in order to make something special you just have to believe that it is special, Po realizes the message behind the ‘blank’ Dragon’s scroll. When anyone looks at the opened scroll, which is the symbol or key to limitless power, they see their own reflection staring back at them.

When I saw my own ‘image’ reflected back to me in this card I was reminded that all I am searching for, all the answers to questions, guidance, unconditional love…can always be found within. It is also the message that Amma relates; that you do not need to believe in anything other than your Self. Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, one of Amma’s senior Swamis, writes in ‘The Timeless Path, ‘She does not ask anyone to believe in God or to change their faith, but only to inquire into their own real nature and to believe in themselves.’ I spend time with Amma because She is a reflection of my true Self. I turn my thoughts towards Amma until I realize that we are not separate, that Guru, God and Self are one.

The Beauty That Overwhelms

throat constricts
stomach contracts
icy stinging in the eyes
melts into tears
vision now blurred
the scene before me
an oasis of heat waves
as if too much beauty
to absorb
to take in all at once
the beauty that overwhelms

i open my pores
to the suns rays
reflected ripples on the crimson leaf canopy above
golden glitter across the waters broken surface
the feeding hummingbird
attracted to the blossoms trumpeted shape
the dragonflies joined together
resting on my chest

the thought of another
witnessing my reaction
instantly shuts down
my response
to the beauty that overwhelms

it is the thought of being seen
naked and vulnerable
that shuts me down
to the beauty that overwhelms

shared easily with nature
but with those in my tribe
in their presence
feel the need to explain in words
how the beauty overwhelms