June 23, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

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JUNE 12, 2017: BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #15

CHAPTER SIX: THE YOGA OF MEDITATION

“WHEN WE LIVE IN THE QUESTION EVERYTHING WE SAY IS MUSIC.”

Attaining this state, he knows
that there is no higher attainment,
he is rooted there unshaken
even by the deepest sorrow.

This is the true yoga; the unbinding
of the bonds of sorrow. Practice
this yoga with determination
and with a courageous heart. [6.22-23]

This is the week of the Summer Solstice. For those who don’t pay attention to these cosmic moments, it occurred in our Northern Hemisphere at 12:24 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 21. And even the next day’s Senate healthcare debacle could not undermine the wonder of sunlight stretching into the evening. The Summer Solstice is a day I’ve always loved, revered even. But this year, I was strangely out of sorts, a mental state that knocked me from the ground I tend to move from, and, as bad luck would have it, sent me tumbling down a flight of stairs. Well, it wasn’t really bad luck. It was me not paying attention. I tripped on my cat Lily who was sleeping on the top step. I’d seen her there on the way up, but forgot she was there on the way down. And down I went. All the way down. 10 steps down to be exact. It’s a miracle I didn’t sprain, break, or concuss myself. Which is not to say I’m not feeling sore, bruised, and tender. I am. Quite.

Paying attention. One cannot take the practice deep enough. Had you seen me on Wednesday as I headed towards those stairs, you’d have seen a woman who appeared totally focused on what she was doing, who appeared to be paying attention. The problem was, what looked like focus was actually compulsion. Compulsion to complete a task. Compulsion that flung my awareness into a future event that never even happened.

What did happen is I got all banged up and will need at least a week to fully recuperate. But who cares about me. The poor cat was so freaked out, she hid under my bed for hours. My daughter had to sacrifice an evening to take care of me. And I had to cancel a long-planned visit with my niece. That’s a lot of inconvenience to others for my momentary lapse of attention.

Or as our charlatan in the White House would say, “not good.”

We spend so much time in our limited and limiting head space—and I’m not even talking about on our devices—that we miss what’s actually happening. We’re often not really here. Which is such a shame. Because here is so very precious.

Walking seems to help my bruised and battered body so I ambled over to the Farmer’s Market yesterday. Early summer abundance. Heads of lettuce, bags of spinach, boxes of sweet peas, bunches of arugula, turnips, beets, green onions, garlic scapes, herbs, buckets of blueberries, fresh eggs, local cheese. And the flowers. OMG. The flowers were amazing. Walking home I felt so simply happy. It didn’t matter that everything hurt, that I was tired, thirsty, hungry, and needing to lie down. None of that mattered. My joy in the preciousness of life was so much bigger than that temporary discomfort. So much bigger.

Which is what the Bhagavad Gita is all about.  Which is why we’ve been reading the Gita as we live through this Trumpian age. Because the awareness and call to right action articulated in this elegant text is the most potent medicine we have to counter the rampant destruction that will characterize this dark and chilling moment in our history.

Here’s the opening dharana and dharma talk from June 12. I usually edit out class banter but thought I’d leave it in for a change…

 

Here are the Mary Oliver poems we read:

THE MAN WHO HAS MANY ANSWERS 

The man who has many answers
is often found
in the theaters of information
where he offers, graciously,
his deep findings.

While the man who has only questions,
to comfort himself, makes music.

POEM OF THE ONE WORLD

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water 

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to 

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

 

Here are the Gita verses, [18-23]:

With a mind grown clear and peaceful,
freed from selfish desires,
absorbed in the Self alone
he is called a true man of yoga.

“A lamp sheltered from the wind
which does not flicker’ — to this
is compared the true man of yoga
whose mind has vanished in the Self.

When his mind has become serene
by the practice of meditation,
he sees the Self through the self
and rests in the Self, rejoicing.

He knows the infinite joy
that is reached by the understanding
beyond the senses; steadfast,
he does not fall back from the truth.

Attaining this state, he knows
that there is no higher attainment,
he is rooted there unshaken
even by the deepest sorrow.

This is the true yoga; the unbinding
of the bonds of sorrow. Practice
this yoga with determination
and with a courageous heart.

 

Here’s Om Namah Shivaya and closing words…

May 28, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

MAY 15, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #12

CHAPTER FIVE: THE YOGA OF RENUNCIATION
IT’S NOT REALLY ABOUT THE RESULTS, WE JUST THINK IT IS….

The resolute in yoga surrender
results, and gain perfect peace;
the irresolute, attached to results,
are bound by everything they do.  [5.12]

The practice of renunciation comes up in every religion and sacred tradition. It’s also an important element in recovery and self-improvement programs. In all these systems, renunciation is a penance, a giving up of something that gives us pleasure, a choosing, in other words, to suffer. And this renouncing is done in order to achieve a certain goal.

The Yoga of Renunciation flips this notion on its head. In Yoga, we renounce not only that which causes suffering, (i.e. attachment and identification with our psycho/emotional narratives.) We also renounce the fruit of our actions, letting go of goal-oriented focus and motivation.

There’s a great deal of paradox here. When I talked about how this work of yogic renunciation may be the hardest thing we ever do, one of my long-time Monday Nighters made a great point. She said from her perspective, not doing it is even harder. Yes and yes. The final irony being that what we’re renouncing doesn’t actually exist. But that’s a topic for another time…

Another bizarre week on the political scene where the Yoga of Not-Renunciation abounds. Here we see everything the Gita warns against. It’s been fascinating to watch this karma playing out. Too soon to know how this scandalous scandal-ridden chapter in American history will end. And they will do a lot of damage before that happens. Still, nonstop leaks, gaffes, and investigations are outing the craven corruption and naked lies that drive Trump and the Republican agenda. And the truth begins to roar.

Here’s May 15’s dharma talk. If you don’t have time to listen, a few short quotes:

“The ego thinks it’s all coming from it. That small sense of “I.” It thinks it’s the doer. It’s not. And that sense of “I’m the doer” creates the sense of isolation and alienation that creates so many of the maladies that plague our culture. We’re not isolated. We’re not alienated. We’re very much part of this ginormous matrix of Creation and that’s what’s carrying us.”

“Who cares about reincarnation. It’s irrelevant. It’s enough that we keep the spaces we move through clear. So we don’t leave a mess we then need to clean up.”

Here are the Gita verses we read:

ARJUNA SAID:

You have praised both renunciation
and the yoga of action, Krishna.
Tell me now: of these two,
which is the better path?

THE BLESSED LORD SAID: 

Renunciation and yoga
both lead to the ultimate good;
but of the two paths, Arjuna,
yoga is the more direct. 

The true renunciate neither
desires things nor avoids them;
indifferent to pleasure and pain
he is easily freed from all bondage. 

Fools say that knowledge and yoga
are separate, but the wise do not.
When you practice one of them deeply,
you gain the rewards of both. 

The state reached by true knowledge
is reached by yoga as well.
Both paths lead to the Self;
both lead to selfless action. 

It is hard to renounce all action
without engaging in action;
the sage, wholehearted in the yoga
of action, soon attains freedom.

Wholehearted, purified, mastering
body and mind, his self
becomes the self all beings;
he is unstained by anything he does.

The man who has seen the truth
thinks, “I am not the doer”
at all times—when he sees, hears, touches,
when he smells, eats, walks, sleeps, breathes, 

when he defecates, talks, or takes hold,
when he opens his eyes or shuts them;
at all times he thinks, “This is merely
sense-objects acting on the senses.” 

Offering his actions to God,
he is free of all action; sin
rolls off him as drops of water
roll off a lotus leaf. 

Surrendering attachment, the sage
performs all actions—with his body,
his mind, and his understanding—
only to make himself pure. 

The resolute in yoga surrender
results, and gain perfect peace;
the irresolute, attached to results,
are bound by everything they do. 

Calmly renouncing all actions,
the embodied Self dwells at ease
as lord of the nine-gated city,
not acting, not causing action.

It does not create the means
of action, or the action itself,
or the union of result and action;
all these arise from Nature.

Nor does it partake of anyone’s
virtuous or evil actions.
When knowledge of the Self is obscured
by ignorance, men act badly.

Here are the poems from Rabi’a, the beloved 8th century Sufi mystic, followed by two more from Hadwijch II, the lesser known but quite extraordinary 13th century Christian beguine. Note how both give the same teaching as the Gita with just a few strokes of the pen. Fyi, the images at the top of this post are Hadwijch facing Rabi’a.

1.
I am fully qualified to work as a doorkeeper, and for this reason:
What is inside me, I don’t let out;
What is outside me, I don’t let in.
If someone comes in, he goes right out again—
He has nothing to do with me at all.
I am a Doorkeeper of the Heart, not a lump of wet clay.
-Rabi’a  (tr. by Charles Upton)

2.
O my Lord,
if I worship you
from fear of hell, burn me in hell.

If I worship you
from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.

But if I worship you
for yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of your Face.
-Rabi’a  (tr. by Jane Hirshfield)

1.
Tighten
to nothing
the circle
that is
the world’s things

Then the Naked
circle
can grow wide,
enlarging,
embracing all
-Hadewijch II  (tr. by Jane Hirshfield)

2.
You who want
knowledge,
seek the Oneness
within

There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting
-Hadewijch II   (tr. by Jane Hirshfield)

Finally, here’s audio of opening chanting that includes om tara tuttare ture swaha and om namah shivaya with a short dharana at the end weaving these two beautiful mantras together…

Here’s a short dharana leading into the classic version of om namah shivaya with a short dharana at the end leading into silent meditation:

April 28, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

Eagle in mountains

APRIL 24, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #9. WHEN A MAN HAS LET GO OF ATTACHMENTS, WHEN HIS MIND IS ROOTED IN WISDOM, EVERYTHING HE DOES IS WORSHIP AND HIS ACTIONS ALL MELT AWAY. GOD IS THE OFFERING, GOD IS THE OFFERED, POURED OUT BY GOD; GOD IS ATTAINED BY ALL THOSE WHO SEE GOD IN EVERY ACTION.  [4.23-24]

I grew up without religious training or tradition. In our house, God was a strange word, rarely spoken, mostly disdained. So when I stumbled onto the yogic path and met Baba Muktananda, his core teaching, God dwells within you as you, struck me as the most radical thing I’d ever heard. It also struck me as absolutely true. So while the word itself is loaded and after all these many years still gives me a jolt, I do love the Gita verse I’ve quoted above: God is the offering, God is the offered, poured out by God; God is attained by all those who see God in every action. Yes!

Today we’re 99 days into the age of Trump. I keep thinking of the Upanishadic concept, neti neti, “not this, not this.” Anyone needing an example of everything that is not-God, need look no further than the Trump White House and Republican agenda, where neti neti, not-God, not-God, is on display day in day out…

Tomorrow is the People’s Climate March, happening on Trump’s hundredth day in office. If you’re on the fence about being part of this massive action, here’s a link to help you find a sister march.

I’ve lately been re-reading William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell. On the profoundly connected subjects of the climate march and God, I’ll leave you with two of my favorite quotes:

When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius; lift up thy head!

For every thing that lives is Holy.

We’re back to Monday Night Class after a two-week break, digging into the Bhagavad Gita: Chapter Four, The Yoga of Wisdom.  This is a very rich topic that lends itself to parallel readings. Here’s audio of my rather free-wheeling dharma talk. It begins with a lovely commentary connecting the Tara mantra to our readings of the Gita. I also brought in a lovely hasidic story and beautiful passage from a Mary Oliver essay on Walt Whitman. Enjoy.

Here are this week’s verses from the Gita:

Actions cannot defile me,
since I am indifferent to results;
all those who understand this
will not be bound by their actions.

This is how actions were done
by the ancient seekers of freedom;
follow their example: act,
surrendering the fruits of action.

What are action and inaction?
This matter confuses even
wise men; so I will teach you
and free you from any harm. 

You must realize what action is,
what wrong action and inaction are
as well. The true nature of action
is profound, and difficult to fathom. 

He who can see inaction
in the midst of action, and action
in the midst of inaction, is wise
and can act in the spirit of yoga. 

With no desire for success,
no anxiety about failure,
indifferent to results, he burns up
his actions in the fire of wisdom. 

Surrendering all thoughts of outcome,
unperturbed, self-reliant,
he does nothing at all, even
when fully engaged in actions. 

There is nothing that he expects,
nothing that he fears. Serene,
free from possessions, untainted,
acting with the body alone, 

content with whatever happens,
unattached to pleasure or pain,
success or failure, he acts
and is never bound by his action. 

When a man has let go of attachments,
when his mind is rooted in wisdom,
everything he does is worship
and his actions all melt away. 

God is the offering, God
is the offered, poured out by God;
God is attained by all those
who see God in every action.  [4.14-24]    

Here are the parallel readings:

 I  

As the power of deliverance Tara is related to the goddess Durga, who similarly takes us across all difficulties. Hence she is also called Durga-Tara. Whereas Durga represents the power that overcomes or destroys obstacles and difficulties, Tara is the power which takes us beyond them. While Durga is more appropriate to call on in extreme danger wherein we need help against negative forces assailing us, Tara has the additional power to lift us up in life generally. Tara is the power to transcend all things. She not only lifts us beyond dangers but allows us to rise beyond our achievements and accomplishments to higher levels of realization. As the ultimate obstacle we have to cross over is our own mind, Tara provides the power to take us beyond the turbulent waves of our thought currents….

 [David Frawley, Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses]

II

I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs
                  to you.
 
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease…observing a spear
                  of summer grass.

             In these lines the great work has begun, and the secret of success has been given. And what is that great labor? Out-circling interest, sympathy, empathy, transference of focus from the self to all else; the merging of the lonely single self with the wondrous, never-lonely entirety. This is all.

[Mary Oliver, Upstream]

 III

A man who lived in the same town as Rabbi Zusya saw that he was very poor. So each day he went to the house of prayer and left twenty pennies so that Zusya and his family might eat. From that time on, the man grew richer and richer. The more he had, the more he gave Zusya, and the more he gave Zusya, the more he had.

One day he recalled that Zusya was the disciple of the great master, Rabbi Baer of Mezritch—and it occurred to him that if what he gave the disciple was so lavishly rewarded, he might become even more prosperous if he made presents to the master himself. So he travelled to Mezritch and made a substantial gift to Baer. From this time on, his means shrank until he lost all the profits he had made during the more fortunate period.

Taking his troubles to Rabbi Zusya, he told him the whole story and asked what his present predicament was due to. For had not the rabbi himself told him that his master was immeasurably greater than he?

Zusya replied: “Look! As long as you gave and did not bother to whom, whether to Zusya or another, God gave to you and did not bother to whom. But when you began to seek out especially noble and distinguished recipients, God did exactly the same.”

[Jack Kornfield, Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart]

Finally, here’s audio of class chanting. This is the Tara mantra resolving into Om Namah Shivaya. This clip has a long slow fade-in so you may hear silence for the first 20 seconds. At around 3.40 minutes, I add a dharana on how these two mantras so beautifully complement and hold one another…

6/06/16 Monday Night Class: Sun Mantras, Ganesha, and the Incredible Lightness of Being…

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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.

Monday, 5.23.16 Class: We Cling to the Present Which Has Already Become the Past Because We’re Terrified of the Future: Om Bhanave Namaha and the Kleshas

The literal translation of the fourth Sun mantra, ॐ भानवे नमः om bhānave namaḥ is “Salutations to Bhānu, the bright splendor of light.”  I’ve also seen it translated as “the diffuser of light.” Thinking about this week’s class, I was intrigued by the notion of diffusing, less as an aspect of the Sun — more in the way the mind diffuses light. Specifically that innate light otherwise knows as the inner Self. Which is the light that actually illuminates the mind so we’re even aware we’re thinking, let alone having peak experience enlightening flashes of insight.

When the mind is crystal clear, this inner light diffuses in its bright splendor aspect. When it’s not, the light diffusing through the mind’s lens (or lenses), will be distorted. Sometimes just a bit. Sometimes so much that it’s obliterated in the opacity.

Which brings me to the kleshas, those lovely lenses so brilliantly articulated in the great text of yogic psychology, Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra. If you’re new to this blog and/or unfamiliar with this text, do visit May 15, 2011 in the Archive. For a quick reference, here you go:

The Kleshas
Avidya is the lens that clouds our ability to know our true nature, which according to Yoga is light.
Asmita is the lens that tricks us into buying into that small sense of self that is prone to suffering.
Raga is pleasure, which, when tangled up with avidya and asmita, gets us all caught up in clinging to what makes us feel good.
Dvesha is aversion, which when tangled up with avidya and asmita, creates a profound separation from everything and anything we label as “bad.”
Abinivesha is clinging to life (or any situation) because we fear death (or change).

Needless to say, the mind is a complex instrument, managing any number of receiving, perceiving, discerning, projecting, remembering, associating, etc. functions at the same time. And the kleshas are right in there, wreaking havoc in the process. So this week’s talk explores the relationship between the kleshas and this fourth Sun mantra.

Here’s the opening dharana:

Here’s my dharma talk:

There were new people in the room this week so I spoke a bit about mantra.  Here is that clip:

 

Finally, here are this week’s readings. First two poem from Coleman Bark’s translation of the poetry of Lalleshwari, Naked Song.  Although Lalla would not have known the Yoga-Sutra, you can see how in both these poems, she is teaching about the kleshas.

 

Two From Lalleshwari

1.
Wear just enough clothes to keep warm.
Eat only enough to stop the hunger-pang.

And as for your mind, let it work
to recognize who you are,
and the Absolute, and that
this body will become food
for the forest crows.

2.
Enlighten your desires.
Meditate on who you are.
Quit imagining.

What you want is profoundly expensive,
and difficult to find,
yet closeby.

Don’t search for it. It is nothing,
and a nothing within nothing.

 

And a Sheikh Nasrudin story and commentary from Swami Muktananda’s, Where Are You Going? A Guide to the Spiritual Journey:

 

Once Sheikh Nasrudin woke up early in the morning, before it was light. He called his disciplele, Mahmud, and said, “Go outside and see if the sun has risen.” Mahmud went out and came back inside.

   “It’s pitch black,” he said. “I cannot see the sun at all.”

   At this, Nasrudin became very angry. “You fool,” he shouted. “Haven’t you got the sense to use a flashlight?”

   That is exactly what we do. To expect a spiritual technique to reveal the indwelling God is like expecting a flashlight to illumine the Sun. A flashlight cannot shine beside the Sun. Like the Sun, the Self is always shining with its own effulgence. What sadhana can illumine the Self. Only through a subtle and sublime intellect can we know it. We meditate and perform spiritual practices only in order to make the intellect pure enough to reflect the effulgence of the Self.    

Baba did teach a great deal from Patanjali and in this quote, although he’s not using technical language, he is very much speaking about spiritual practice as a way to clean and polish the mind (here referred to as intellect) so that nothing hinders, obstructs, distorts, or extinguishes the shining bright splendor of the Self.

Monday, October 6, 2014: “Beauty is Truth, Truth beauty…that is all ye need to know.”

Class has resumed after a long summer break and we’re moving into a cycle of wisdom teachings on and of the Goddess.

I’ve talked about the Goddess for so many years, images of, mythology of, paths of, mantras of, wisdom of, on and on it goes. And nothing against any of this. But at the end of the day, it is so not about personified forms. Lovely as the images can be, lovely as the stories, that is all dust. The only thing that matters is our inner experience, that inner flash of light we experience as insight, inspiration, clarity, truth — and perhaps, most of all, love…

If the goddess is anything, it is this, the inner pulsation that not only gives life, but charges that life with wisdom, meaning, purpose, possibility, and once again, love. We need to find this inside ourselves as ourselves. Only then can we really know it, nourish it, reflect it, recognize it, and once again, love it…

I don’t know if Keats was thinking of the Goddess when he wrote Ode on a Grecian Urn.  Nevertheless, his ending couplet, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” could be a bumper sticker for goddess wisdom. More on this over the coming weeks.

For now, audio clips from 9.29 Monday Night Class.

Here’s the opening chant (and words to), Durga, Durga, Durga, Jai Jai Ma:

Durga Durga Durga, Jai Jai Ma
Karuna Sagari Ma
Kali Kapalini Ma Jagododharini Ma
Jai Jagadambe Jai Jai Ma

Glory to the Ocean of Knowledge, Compassion, and Truth that carries me across the ocean of the world.

Here’s my dharma talk which runs around twelve minutes:

Finally, we chanted the Hymn to Devi from Chapter 5 of Devi Mahatmyam as a prelude to chanting Om Namah Shivaya before moving into silent meditation. This audio clip contains these two chanting segments plus a dharana on ONS in the context of goddess practice:

Monday, January 27, 2014: Warming the Stone Child

Stone child

I woke up Monday morning hearing the words “warming the stone child…” I remembered this is a title from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ canon although did not recall the story. The image however is so evocative, I sat with it awhile, reflecting on winter and the stone cold darkness, on the longing for warmth and nurture, on how nothing warms the stone child like the blazing fire of the heart…

The other phrase I kept hearing was “sonic hydration.” Which struck me as the other medicine the stone child sorely needs.  Heart fire and heart hydration. And we all know the quickest route to these is chanting the Name…

I found a transcription of CPE’s telling of Warming the Stone Child online so was able to read it at class and will also post it here. It’s a beautiful version of this Inuit tale and as I said at class, who knows better how to thrive in the long dark cold of winter but people of the Artic.

Like all great wisdom tales, it transcends time and place and can be felt through myriad lenses of perception. For people on a yogic path, it has a lot to say about clinging to form, about surrender, about the awesome power of tears shed from the depths of suffering—about how everything we search for is within….

It reminds me of the Mirabai poem, The Heat of Midnight Tears which I also read at class. All this in the dharma talk audio clip below.

Here’s the story and the poem:

The Stone Child:
An Inuit Story told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 There was an orphan that was so lonely and so hungry that no one wanted to be near him.  His mouth was open all the time and his teeth were always showing and tears were always running down from his eyes, and he was so wild with hunger that they had to tie him in the entrance to one of the skin houses so he’d not try to eat the hunters on their way to the seal hunt; that’s how hungry he was.

They would, on occasion, leave him some rancid reindeer meat or maybe some spoiled intestines to eat, but, as we know, it was more than hunger that was gnawing at him.  Those deep needs that not even the person themselves understands.  So everyday he stretched his chain a little bit and a little bit more, until he could get near a stone that was more or less the same size as himself.  You see, his mother and father had died one night, and their bodies had been dragged off by bears, and all that had been left behind by them was this one particular stone.  So he wrapped both his arms and his legs around that rock and he wouldn’t let go of it.  And, of course, his people thought he was crazier than ever, and on their way home from the hunt, with animal carcasses slung over their shoulders, they would jeer at him, and they would say, “Analuk has taken a stone for a wife, ha ha.  It’s good for you to have a wife who is a stone, for then you cannot use your hunger and eat her.”  And they went on their way.  

But the boy was so lonely and so hungry that he really had reached the end of his feeling for life.  And even though he had that terrible loneliness and that gnawing hunger, he kept his body wrapped around that stone, and because the stone began to take the heat from his flesh, the boy began to die.  The stone took the heat from his hands, and then it took the heat from his thighs, and it even took the heat from his chin where he rested it on top of the stone.  

And just as the boy was living his last breath, the hunters of his village came by again on their way home from the hunt, and again they called him down, and they said, “You crazy boy!  You are nesting with that stone like it is an egg.  We should call you Bird Boy, you good-for-nothing creature.”  And because the boy was near death, his feelings were hurt more than he could ever say, and great icy tears began to roll down his face and across his parka, and his cold, cold tears hit the hot, hot stone with a sizzle and a hiss and a crack, and it broke the stone right in two.

And inside was the most perfect little female the boy could ever want.  “Come,” she said, “I am here now, and you are an orphan no more.”  And she gave him a bow and arrows and a harpoon she had brought with her, and the boy and the girl made their house and had babies.  And, if they are not yet dead, they are in that land where the snow is violet and the night sky is black.  They are there, living still.

The Heat of Midnight Tears
Mirabai,  English version by Robert Bly

Listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening,
Kissing his feet, resistance broken, tears all night.

If we could reach the Lord through immersion in water,
I would have asked to be born a fish in this life.
If we could reach Him through nothing but berries and wild nuts,
Then surely the saints would have been monkeys when they came from the womb!
If we could reach him by munching lettuce and dry leaves,
Then the goats would surely go to the Holy One before us!

If the worship of stone statues could bring us all the way,
I would have adored a granite mountain years ago.

Mirabai says: The heat of midnight tears will bring you to God.

One point I did not get to in this week’s dharma talk is the perfect ending of the Stone Child story: ” They are there, living still…”   Living still.   Such a beautiful evocation of the eternal stillness of the present moment. Reminds me of the opening sutras of Patanjali:

1.1 Atha  yogānushāsanam

1.2 Yogah  chitta  vritti  nirodhaha

1.3 Tadā  drashtu svarupe  avasthānam

Now, in this moment, the study of Yoga, which is the stilling of the thought waves of the mind; and in that stillness we rest in our essential nature.

I’ve walked this path now for nearly forty years and for me, chanting Om Namah Shivaya feels as fresh and alive as that very first time…Every repetition bathing me in sonic hydration, warming me from the inside, breaking open the stone child barriers in heart and mind so I merge, over and over, with the tender magnificence of the Self.