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FEBRUARY 6, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #2: NONBEING CAN NEVER BE; BEING CAN NEVER NOT BE. BOTH THESE STATEMENTS ARE OBVIOUS TO THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN THE TRUTH.

Soon after we began reading the Bhagavad Gita, I was listening to a radio news show, I think it was NPR’s All Things Considered, and learned that Steve Bannon is a big fan of the Gita. Checking this out online, I discovered that Heinrich Himmler was also an admirer. He evidently kept a leather bound copy with him at all times. So we have Bannon, the architect of Trump’s policy agenda, and Himmler, the architect of the Nazi “Final Solution,” twisting the ideal of dharma to serve their twisted worldview. Two sociopaths fixated on the Gita’s notion of righteous war to justify their own pathologies. If you want an example of the dangers of belief, I give you this: Himmler believed Hitler was an incarnation of Krishna. One can only hope Bannon is not similarly deluded about the monster he serves.

It does give one pause.
And begs the question: How do we discern truth from belief?

The Bhagavad Gita may use the notion of “righteous war” to start a conversation. But the conversation is not about war. It’s about consciousness. The conversation between Arjuna and Krishna is a mirror of the conversation that goes on inside of us all the time. The conversation between the small self or ego (what we refer to in Yoga as the “I-maker”) and the Great Self of the Heart. And by “Heart,” I mean the ineffable hugeness that doesn’t speak in words. It’s more like a quivering or shimmering from deep within us. In those miraculous moments when we ground there, we embody everything the Gita teaches. In fact, in those miraculous moments, we are the Gita.

What Bannon doesn’t understand now and what Himmler didn’t understand then, is that we don’t go to war against the “other,” we go to war against that inside of us which creates the idea of “other.” We go to war inside of ourselves against the notion that we are somehow separate from and entitled to destroy that “other.” We go to war against this outmoded paradigm that has always been questionable and has demonstrated over a few thousand years that the only thing it excels at is making a tremendous mess of everything it touches.

We have to read the Gita the same way we should live our lives. We have to slip beneath the surface, read between the lines. We have to probe deeper and deeper, within a text, within ourselves, until the mind becomes so spacious, so still, that the “I”’ that drives the historical, cultural, psycho-emotional, and spiritual narratives that rule us ceases to be. Only in that stillness is the possibility of insight, and only in that insight, the possibility of truth. Anything that comes before that must be questioned.

I was talking with someone recently who was feeling very uncertain about her own gifts, and along with that, judging herself for not being more certain. This is the trap of dualistic thinking. It’s not about hard-edged certainty or soft edgeless uncertainty. Certainty and uncertainty are opposite poles of a stuckness that is quite destructive either way. What we want to develop is clarity. Which is neither certainty nor uncertainty. It’s just clarity. In that koan-like way Verse 2.16 so eloquently sings: “Nonbeing can never be; being can never not be. Both these statements are obvious to those who have seen the truth.’

Here’s my dharma talk from February 6. Which was Bhagavad Gita Talk #2, a rather freewheeling contemplation on the first forty or so verses from Chapter Two, The Practice of Yoga.

Here are the verses from this talk.  (If you’re visiting this blog for the first time, please note we’re working with Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita. See my last post for more on that.)

Although you mean well, Arjuna
your sorrow is sheer delusion.
Wise men do not grieve
for the dead or the living.

Never was there a time
when I did not exist, or you,
or these kings; nor will there come
a time when we cease to be.

Just as, in this body, the Self
passes through childhood, youth,
and old age, so after death
it passes to another body.

Physical sensations—cold
and heat, pleasure and pain —
are transient: they come and go:
so bear them patiently, Arjuna.

Only the man who is unmoved
by any sensations, the wise man
indifferent to pleasure, to pain,
is fit for becoming deathless.

Nonbeing can never be;
being can never not be.
Both these statements are obvious
to those who have seen the truth.

The presence that pervades the universe
is imperishable, unchanging,
beyond both is and is not:
how could it ever vanish?

These bodies come to an end;
but the vast embodied Self
is ageless, fathomless, eternal.
Therefore you must fight, Arjuna.

If you think the Self can kill
or think that it can be killed,
you do not well understand
reality’s subtle ways.

It never was born; coming
to be, it will never not be.
Birthless, primordial, it does not
die when the body dies.

Knowing that it is eternal,
unborn, beyond destruction,
how could you ever kill?
And whom could you kill, Arjuna?

Just as you throw out used clothes
and put on other clothes, new ones,
the Self discards its used bodies
and puts on others that are new.

The sharpest sword will not pierce it;
the hottest flame will not singe it;
water will not make it moist;
wind will not cause it to wither.

It cannot be pierced or singed,
moistened or withered; it is vast,
perfect and all-pervading,
calm, immovable, timeless.

It is called the Inconceivable,
the Unmanifest, the unchanging.
If you understand it in this way,
you have no reason for sorrow.

Even if you think that the Self
is perpetually born and perpetually
dies—even then, Arjuna,
you have no reason for your sorrow.<

Before birth, beings are unmanifest;
between birth and death, manifest;
at death, unmanifest again.
What cause for grief in all this?

Some perceive it directly
in all its awesomeness; others
hear of it and never know it.

This Self who dwells in the body
is inviolable, forever;
therefore you have no cause to grieve
for any being Arjuna.

Know what your duty is
and do it without hesitation/
For a warrior, there is nothing better
than a battle that duty enjoins.

Blessed are the warriors who are given
the chance of a battle like this,
which calls them to do what is right
and opens the gates of heaven.

But if you refuse the call
to a righteous war, and shrink from
what duty and honor dictate,
you will bring down ruin on your head.

Decent men, for all time,
will talk about your disgrace;
and disgrace, for a man of honor,
is a fate far worse than death.

These great heroes will think
that fear has driven you from battle;
all those who once esteemed you
will think of you with contempt.

And your enemies will sneer and mock you:
“The mighty Arjuna, that brave man—
he slunk from the field like a dog.”
What deeper shame could there be?

If you are killed, you gain heaven;
triumph and you gain the earth.
Therefore stand up, Arjuna;
steady your mind to fight.

Indifferent to gain or loss,
to victory or defeat,
prepare yourself for the battle
and do not succumb to sin.

This is philosophy’s wisdom:
now hear the wisdom of yoga.
Armed with this understanding,
you will shatter your karmic bonds.

On this path no effort is wasted,
no gain is ever reversed;
even a little of this practice
will shelter you from great sorrow.

And as often is the case, the final word goes to Mary Oliver:

HOW TURTLES COME TO SPEND THE WINTER IN THE
AQUARIUM, THEN ARE FLOWN SOUTH AND
RELEASED BACK INTO THE SEA

Somewhere down beach, in the morning, at water’s edge, I found
   a sea turtle,
its huge head a smoldering apricot, its shell streaming with
   seaweed,
its eyes closed, its flippers motionless.
When I bent down, it moved a little.
When I picked it up, it sighed.
Was it forty pounds, or fifty pounds, or a hundred?
Was it two miles back to the car?
We walked a little while, and then we rested, and then we
   walked on
I walked with my mouth open, my heart roared.
The eyes opened, I don’t know what they thought.
Sometimes the flippers swam at the air.
Sometimes the eyes closed.
I couldn’t walk anymore, and then I walked some more
while it turned into granite, or cement, but with that
   apricot-colored head,
that stillness, that Buddha-like patience, that cold-shocked
   but slowly beating heart.
Finally, we reached the car.

                                                       ***

The afternoon is the other part of this story.
Have you ever found something beautiful, and maybe just in time?
How such a challenge can fill you!
Jesus could walk over the water.
I had to walk ankle-deep in the sand, and I did it.
My bones didn’t quite snap.

 Come on in, and see me smile.
I probably won’t stop for hours.
Already, in the warmth, the turtle has raised its head, is
   looking around.
Today, who could deny it, I am an important person.

–Mary Oliver, House of Light

daffodils and snow

JANUARY 30, 2017: BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #1. “ON THIS PATH NO EFFORT IS WASTED”

In the weeks between the November election and January inauguration, the great majority of us on the other side of madness were in shock, beginning to mobilize, but also holding out hope that somehow, some way, this political nightmare would be averted. Time seemed to stand still, and then, it was done. We found ourselves waking up in a whole new reality, waking up in an America we did not recognize, waking up in the age of Trump.

And now it’s March. In just six days it will be Spring. Although here on the East coast we’re being slammed by winter weather we barely had all winter. Last week, sixty degrees and daffodils blooming. Today they’re buried under the snow. The sweet promise of new life and renewal postponed for the time being.

Which brings me to the Bhagavad Gita. When I was younger in my journey, I devoured texts like this one. I couldn’t get enough. These last years though I’ve mostly stayed away from them. Partly it’s the patriarchal language, partly what sometimes seems a jungle of verbiage. At this stage of my life, I way prefer the naked simplicity of Mary Oliver’s poetry and Robert Bly’s Kabir.

And yet, the Bhagavad Gita is a powerful compendium of the yogic system. And has a great deal to say about waking up, about the difference between authentic power and something that pretends to be. About true greatness of soul and that empty charade that is grandiosity and smallness. Like so many of India’s ancient wisdom texts, no one knows for sure when this one was written. Scholars date it sometime between the fifth century B.C.E and first century C.E.The wonder of it is, it’s incredibly relevant for now.

Because along with articulating the philosophy and psychology of Yoga, the Gita offers a rather precise technology for strengthening ourselves from the inside out, so we can not only meet, but act effectively, to counter the dangers of this time. There is so much work to do. So many moving parts. So many different voices and needs to attend to. It’s easy to lose focus, burn out, numb out, and feel overwhelmed. Working with the Gita offers a steadying, sobering, and heart-drenched medicine for standing strong in the face of that and those who dare to cause harm…

The edition we’re using is Stephen Mitchell’s Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation. My scholar friends will thumb their noses, but I do like his version. Perhaps it’s Mitchell’s long training in Zen. True to the text and written with great respect and reverence, there’s a spareness in his writing I respond to. The Introduction alone is superb. Mitchell really gets it! Here’s how he opens:

One of the best ways of entering the Bhagavad Gita is through the enthusiasm of Emerson and Thoreau, our first two America sages. Emerson mentions the Gita often in his Journals, with the greatest respect…

It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spake to us, nothing small or unworthy but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.

What a revelation the Gita must have been for minds predisposed to its largehearted vision of the world. And what a delight to stand behind Emerson and Thoreau, reading over their shoulders as they discover this “stupendous and cosmogonal” poem in which, from the other side of the globe, across so many centuries, they can hear the voice of the absolutely genuine. Here is a kinsman, an elder brother, telling them truths that they already, though imperfectly, know, truths that are vital to them and to us all. In the Gita’s wisdom, as in an ancient, clear mirror, they find that they can recognize themselves….

And here’s how he closes:

The healthiest way to begin reading and absorbing a text like the Bhagavad Gita is to understand that ultimately it has nothing to teach. Everything essential that it points to—what we call wisdom or radiance or peace—is already present inside us. Once we have practiced meditation sincerely and seen layer after layer of the inauthentic fall away, we come to a place where dualities such as sacred and profane, spiritual and unspiritual fall away.

Zen Master Hsueh-feng asked a monk where he had come from.The monk said, “From the Monastery of Spiritual Light.”

The Master said, “In the daytime, we have sunlight, in the evening, we have lamplight. What is spiritual light?”

The monk couldn’t answer.

The Master said, “Sunlight. Lamplight.”

In that place, God is the ground we walk on, the food we eat, and the gratitude we express, to no one in particular, as naturally as breathing.

* * * * *

How’s that for a beautiful (and over the top tantric) definition of God.

Here’s the audio of my first Dharma Talk on the Gita. This is from January 30, 2017. I also want to add that for no rational reason I can articulate, but from the shakti that informs my work, the mantras we’ve been chanting this cycle are Om Tara Tuttare Ture Swaha and Namo Kuan Shih Yin P’u-Sa. This talk opens with a just shy of 3-minute explication of the Tara mantra.

img_3178I WANT TO START BY ASSURING YOU THAT SUKIE IS FINE. ABSOLUTELY FINE. ALTHOUGH WE MIGHT HAVE USED UP ONE OF HER NINE LIVES TODAY… I looked out the window this morning and saw three crows in a tree, cawing quite loudly. I watched fascinated until, gasp, I saw the reason why. Sukie was perched on a very high, very thin branch of another tree, intent on those crows. Precarious as it looked, and it did take my breath away, there was nothing I could do. So I watched, wonderstruck at this moment between a cat who thinks she can fly being scolded by three great crows.

And this is where the story turns dark. Had I simply stayed watching at the window, everything would have been fine. The crows would have flown off. Sukie would have found her way down. And I would have been enriched by the moment. Instead, I grabbed my phone and went out on the deck to make a video for Facebook. And now you know what’s coming. The sound of the door opening disturbed their equilibrium. The crows flew off. Sukie’s focus was shaken and the next thing I knew, she was hanging upside down, clawing to right herself on a branch too light to support her. And down she fell. A good twenty feet or more.

It was as shocking as waking up Wednesday morning to discover Donald Trump had won the election. And not so different from what’s just happened to the 59,755,284 of us who voted for Hillary Clinton. We’ve all fallen out of the tree. Lulled by our Facebook Newsfeeds, we missed the reality of the moment. Even those of us who thought we were listening. And it’s not like the crows were not trying to warn us. They were. It’s just that we, or I’ll speak for myself, I, was in denial.

The gift of it all is waking up.

Painful as the metaphorical falling out of a tree can be, coming out of denial is a powerful weapon. And those of us who care about the great issues of our time, issues like the climate crisis, income inequality, and social justice, need more than ever before, to be in reality. Empowered, joyous, and fiercely determined, yes. But most important, in reality.

I was just looking at the lists of potential picks for the Trump cabinet. It reads like a parody. If it weren’t so horrifying, it would be laughable. I think of all the people who voted  to “drain the swamp.” No doubt some are already falling out of their trees.

A lot of us here on the ground are contemplating where we go from here. I’m not yet clear exactly what forms this will take for me personally. But for starters, let me say, slow down. Do not become reactive. Do not give into fear-based ways of thinking. Do not allow a sense of overwhelm to overtake you. Feel your feelings. Feel your rage. Feel your hatred. Feel your despair. But do not allow these feelings to rule you. Channel them into awakening. That’s where it all begins. That’s what grows us strong and resilient. That’s what makes us so pure that nothing can taint us, nothing can harm us, nothing can impede our way. That’s what fosters right action.

In the short term, there is so much outer work we can do. Educate ourselves. Speak out. Write letters. Call (or better, visit) our senators and representatives. Become involved in local politics. Sign petitions. March on Washington. Support progressive media and progressive organizations. Support Planned Parenthood. Talk to people we disagree with. All the above and more.

Although I’ve done plenty of outward action in my life, the work of my lifetime has been mostly on the inner plane. That’s the terrain I know best. That’s the terrain where I’ll say I have some mastery. So that’s where I suspect I’ll feel called as we move through these hard dark times that are a coming. Is my music a part of that? Absolutely. Do I still think that chanting is a crucial 21st century medicine? Yes. But it seems my work as a writer and teacher and therapist and healer is coming to the forefront now. Perhaps because this is where I have the most to give.

Madness, blindness, cruelty, and denial may seem now triumphant. But there is so much beauty and depth and sanity and meaning and wonder and kindness and grace and bounty and hope and possibility and yes, love, alive and strong in this country and in this world. I for one am determined to do all I can to keep this alive in myself and in everyone with whom I come into contact. Whatever I can do to remain in service to that is what I pledge to do.

election-day-2016A beautiful day in Princeton. Walking over to vote this morning, I felt such a sense of the importance of this small act of civic responsibility. Which, politically cynical as I’ve grown over the years, surprised me. And then, even more surprising, the thrill I felt as I cast my vote. But what surprised me most of all were the tears that welled up as I walked out of my polling place.

So much divides us. The country seems as polarized as it was during the Civil War. One wonders where we go from here. How does Hillary (and I trust she will win this election) begin to heal the gulf. How do any of us reach out to the other side. These are the big questions. And if neuropolitical research is correct, our political stance is predetermined in our hard wiring.

Listening helps. Standing less on the side of being right, more on the side of being open helps. These are skills we can develop as long as we’re willing to step outside our own definitions of what is right, and feel the fear or pain or hatred of another. Is my fear of Donald Trump any different than a Trump supporter’s fear of Hillary Clinton. Same fear. Just pointed in a different direction.

At class last night I read from Baba Muktananda’s 1981 book, Where Are You Going? As relevant today as it was 35 years ago.

Today the world is said to be making more and progress, but in what way has it become greater… All over the world there is hatred among nations, hostility among political parties, animosity among societies, and enmity among races and classes. People talk about innovation and reform, but in the name of these things they have succeeded only in destroying the environment, in wrecking family life, and increasing selfishness and hostility.

In such a world there is only one thing we need, and that is the true understanding of humanity. Yet that is exactly what we lack. Why does a human being behave as he does? Why does he create barriers between himself and others? He does these things because he lacks true understanding about himself. He does not know the greatness that lies within the human heart. Yet if he were to look within himself, he would realize that he contains the divinity of the entire world.

Perhaps, in the end, it all comes down to Love. The kind of love that stretches across the boundaries and holds us strong in its embrace. The love that’s called agape or maitri. It’s what I touched this morning when those tears welled up. Last thing I ever expected to happen. Yet there it was, shimmering inside of me, waiting for me to open up and feel its grace.

I read this beautiful poem by Marie Howe at class last night. It’s deep. if you don’t already know it, read it out loud several times at least and it will come alive for you…

Annunciation

Even if I don’t see it again — nor ever feel it
I know it is — and that if once it hailed me
it ever does–

and so it is myself I want to turn in that direction
not as toward a place, but it was a tilting
within myself,

as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where
it isn’t — I was blinded like that — and swam
in what shone at me

only able to endure it by being no one and so
specifically myself I thought I’d die
from being loved like that.

-Marie Howe

I cannot believe it is already November. And thank goddess the presidential campaign is over tomorrow.Or let us hope it ends tomorrow with no re-count challenges…

At class last week, we were contemplating the five koshas as described in the Taittiriya Upanishad. A fancy way to articulate the various levels (aka bodies) that weave through the ultimate oneness of our human being-ness. The more I think about it, the more I think that while this way of breaking it down into categories has its place in the work of developing mastery, I do believe Mary Oliver says it all way more beautifully….

WHAT CAN I SAY
-Mary Oliver

What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
  and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
   chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you 
   were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,
and the leaf is singing still.

When I was meditating this morning, I found my mind contemplating the question, “Why?” Why do I meditate?  Why have I been doing this practice now for nearly forty years? What have I received? Have I done it to receive anything? What’s the bloody point of it all? Why do I teach it to others?

And I remembered, being in high school, maybe my junior year. 1964 or 1965. I was reading Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. I can still feel myself lying on the living room couch in my family’s home absorbed in that narrow paperback. And I came to the end of the story, where he has attained something wonderful. He has attained stillness. And every cell in my being started to pulsate. I didn’t know how to find what he found, but in that moment, my quest began…

So why do I meditate? All those years in Siddha Yoga formed a habit. What began as a quest and became a rigid following of  ashram discipline — (really rather fear-based if I speak the truth to you now) — just became something I do.

Like breathing. Or sleeping. Or drinking chai.

And at this point in my life, to borrow a phrase from Mary Oliver, I am of years lived, so far, sixty-eight… And find I don’t need a reason. In fact, I question if having a reason is actually counter to the practice.

Meditating may contribute to my health and vitality —
may help to anchor my insight and intuition —
may foster an inner glow —
but I realized this morning that I don’t do it for any of those reasons.

I just meditate to meditate.

If I have a reason, it’s something like for the sheer joy of being alive and experiencing the sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrible, sometimes wonder-filled, sometimes terrifying life/death dance of life.

Which is more than enough reason for me.

* * * *

Tomorrow is Election Day in the USA. If you’re a US citizen, please vote!!! Because even though it seems like it barely makes a difference. That the status quo remains the status quo. That our so-called leaders remain in the pockets of corporate lobbyists. Still, somehow, in the big picture, it does matter. If only to elect someone who understands the climate crisis is here and it is real. And that is Hillary Clinton. Whether she’ll be able to do anything about it, probably only those incremental steps she’s famous for. And whether incremental steps are enough… I don’t think so. Nevertheless, I’m voting for Hillary. Not because she’s inspired me as a candidate. (She has not.) Not because she’s a woman. (To me it’s less about gender and more about consciousness.) Not because I particularly want to see Bill Clinton back in the White House. (It actually kind of creeps me out.) I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think she is far and away the best choice we have. And while I don’t agree with all her policies. And have concerns about how enmeshed she is in politics as usual. Still, I have real respect for her intelligence, wonkiness, and discipline. And suspect that although she doesn’t often show it in her public persona, I think she actually cares. And while I don’t think that’s enough. I do think it’s a starting point. We just need to ensure she is elected. And then keep pushing her to govern from that sense of care. Not from fear. Not from greed. Not from a need to dominate. To govern with care for everything that lives and breathes and is of this Earth we all call home…

P1000600_2

I think a lot about listening. What it means to really listen to oneself. What it means to listen to another. What is means to listen to the world. How do we cultivate ears that truly hear. How do we foster a communication between ourselves and everything of our world that makes communion happen. So much gets in the way of that. So much mucks up the clear space within and around us. So that rather than communion, we often end up with separation. We cling to our belief systems. We cling to our stories. We cling to our idea of being right. Which doesn’t let in much space for listening. We’re too busy telling…

Here’s a talk about listening that weaves in yogic teachings on the mind, aka, the Four-Part Psychic Instrument or antahkarana. Like so much passed down through the Hindu Yogic system, this perspective on the mind is quite simple and profound. I unpack it in the talk, but here are the technical terms spelled out.

The four levels of antahkarana or the Four-Part Psychic Instrument

Manas: often translated as mind-stuff. From our western perspective, think of it as your conscious mind.

Chitta: translated in a myriad of ways. From our western perspective, think of it as the unconscious.

Ahamhara: in the yogic system, this is the sense of “I.” Often referred to as the ego.

Buddhi: the discriminating faculty.

Here’s the talk:

And here is a wonderful poem from Mary Oliver who is perhaps one of the greatest listeners we have.

 

The Fist
Mary Oliver
 
There are days
when the sun goes down
like a fist,
though of course

if you see anything
in the heavens
in this way
you had better get

your eyes checked
or, better still,
your diminished spirit.
The heavens

have no fist,
or wouldn’t they have been
shaking it
for a thousand years now,

and even
longer than that,
at the dull, brutish
ways of mankind—

heaven’s own
creation?
Instead: such patience!
Such willingness

to let us continue!
To hear
little by little,
the voices—

only, so far, in
pockets of the world—
suggesting
the possibilities

of peace?
Keep looking.
Behold, how the fist opens
with invitation.

from Thirst, Beacon Press, 2006.

13330921_10157248014180227_2932591289537748488_n

This week’s class fell on 6/06/16 which got me thinking about the significance of the number six. If you stop think about it, the number six is composed of 2 3’s and/or 3 2’s. The 2’s represent opposite poles and the movement towards balance. The 3’s represent a unifying synthesis, the sacred trinity we find in so many traditions. When you put that all together, you can see why you end up with a number that is connected to the exuberant amazing glorious expressive, and most of all life-giving Sun…

Here’s a quote from Vicki Noble’s Motherpeace Tarot:

Sixes: Exuberance

The Sixes are full and expressive, a peak number, always expansive and positive in some way. Six represents exuberance or triumph, being on top of things. Like the Sun sitting at the center of the solar system, Six sits at the center of the Kabalistic Tree of Life and radiates out in every direction, saying, “yes!” Six represents a moment of decisive action or a climax of some sort, a moment of glory.

Which all seemed an excellent jumping off point for a class that constellated around the fifth Sun mantra, the creation story of Ganesha, and the inner possibility of soaring…

ॐ खगाय नमः
om khagāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Khaga, who travels the sky like a bird…

I love all the Sun mantras, but this is one that always jumps out at me. I love the image of light traveling through the sky like a bird. I also love the way “light” as in light and “light” as in lightness are so connected. Which gets me thinking about the incredible lightness of being we feel in the presence of people who are, well, full of light. People who have a buoyancy of spirit and soul that soars like a bird. And what a delight (there’s that word again) to have them in our lives. Because let’s face it. Most of us lean towards the heaviness of being. We are gravity-based creatures. And that’s not just the gravity of Earth. There’s a potent gravitational force in the demands of daily life, in the stress we hold in our bodies, in the narratives and belief systems that can (and often do) keep us down. Although we don’t like to admit it, many of us prefer to be stressed out. It’s familiar, provides solid reasons for everything that’s not working in our lives, and most of all, distracts us from remembering we are finite being living in an unfathomable mystery we will never be able to control. The irony being that the Mystery does seem to be made of light…

 

Here’s my opening dharana on the mantra Om Namaha Shivaya  as a bird with two wings:

 

And here is this week’s dharma talk, a weaving of the well-known creation story of Ganesha from the Shiva Purana with 5th Sun mantra. I’m interested in what it takes to foster the incredible lightness of being embodied in Ganesha and articulated in this mantra. One point I didn’t get into in this talk is looking at Ganesha as a threshold keeper. If you look at the two common epithets assigned to “him,” Lord of Beginnings and Gatekeeper of the Sacred Feminine, you can see what I’m talking about. But what does that really mean, to be a threshold keeper. Ganesha resides in the space between, embodying a perfect balance, a lightness of being that makes it possible to ride on the back of mouse without crushing it. In my opinion, this is the reason for spiritual practice. So that we can walk lightly on the Earth, lightly through ups and downs of daily life, and perhaps most important since it makes these first two possible, walk lightly within ourselves…

 

 

The Glow of Your Presence
Hafiz  [English version by David and Sabrineh Fideler]

Where have you taken your sweet song?
Come back and play me a tune.

I never really cared for the things of this world.
It was the glow of your presence
that filled it with beauty.