Of Time and the River

Every once in a while, when my biorhythms and higher awareness seem to be in sync, I am able to pierce the veil of events that is otherwise known as my life. Stepping aside mentally, watching the flood of sensory data that ceaselessly rushes in, I am witness to the brilliant salesmanship that I perform on myself to maintain my belief that it’s all real. In a word, my world is a-maze-ing!

Not to be presumptuous, but is your world any different? If not, then welcome to another round of dealing with its strangeness. Ours is the riddle of existence, yet unsolved.

Heaven knows, there has been no lack of divine intervention to correct this condition. Ascended masters and their enlightened disciples have often returned to earth on missions of mercy, intending to guide us home to God’s embrace. It is our task merely to crew the worthy vessels they provide, and they, as God’s helmsmen, will pilot us over the ocean of our delusions to the shores of Bliss. But only by fits and fussing, it seems, do we take unto ourselves their wisdom and ways. Frequently we bail out in fear of leaving behind the flustering lives we have known.

An aide to our fears and misdemeanors of habit—in particular our wanton pursuits of sensory pleasure—is our obsession with time. Though we prize and flex our free will, we are, on the whole, slavishly obedient to the rule of the clock. Its advancing hands are reminders to us of desires yet unfulfilled, of distances yet to cover, and of deadlines and pressures that do not abate. Every second marks the loss of whatever was here just a second ago, and except for the pain and suffering that our ignorance demands, we fret over its passing. In moments of higher consciousness, we vow to practice letting go of what is already gone. And then we find another reason not to.

Granted, it serves us to think of time and place, to measure distances traveled, to pause and reflect before pushing ahead. Without this capability we wouldn’t remember birthdays, appointments, important projects, where we parked the car or how to drive it. Still, our reliance on timeline perspective often renders us helpless to break away from unproductive patterns. Instead of striving to develop intuition, we exaggerate the merits of memory, style and routine to give our lives meaning. But what do they mean? Where is the spiritual progress in these worldly fixations?

To make matters worse, memory is merely a form of approximation, less and less dependable as time goes by. Do you really remember yourself as a kid? Chances are, that person belongs to the ages, accessible only in snatches of recollection. Even the immediate past is barely impressive. Who were you a moment ago? Who are you now? By the time the answer comes, there has been a molecular change.

Philosophers and poets have often used the metaphor of a river to represent the miracle of life: ever flowing, never the same. And so it is for us too. It is only in our habit of clinging to the past, or of looking to the future for what is still out of reach, that we succumb to repetition and immobility.

Like the trillions of physical cells that sustain us, we, in our minds, need to keep moving as well. Into the present. Into that placeless place of constant fluidity. Into the liberating experience of non-attachment. When moving in this way, the lure of our senses begins to lose its grip, and we begin to discover ourselves as we truly are, as beings of divine light. This is how we open the door to a quintessential interior world that is blessedly and transcendently un-a-maze-ing.

Remember to Self-Forget

I am of a “certain age,” as they say, when memory becomes less reliable. This can be hard to gracefully accept and adjust to. I can recollect as a teen having almost photo recall, when I could bring all kinds of information from storage to speech in an instant.

Not so today. I depend to a greater extent on writing notes and lists, which works fairly well when I happen to remember where I’ve put them!

I try to make light of my lapses–failing to think of a person’s name or where I left my keys–but the inconvenience at times can turn to frustration. If you’re young and not dealing with this condition yet, trust me, you’ll get your chance!

Driving around these days, we are likely to see a now familiar sign: “Road work ahead. Expect delays.” This is precisely the message I receive when slowing down to fix a cranial connection that has come apart.

Suddenly there’s a flagger in the path of my effortless mental acuity with a sign that says, “Stop,” and there I am, waiting for the signal to proceed, while the workers in my brain try to repair the link to wherever my thought was going.

Most of us view the decline of memory with a measure of distress. Although it appears to be largely a natural phenomenon, we tend to regret it, often with a sense of vexation and despair. Granted, it can be problematic and sometimes even embarrassing to be forgetful, but in the divine scheme of things, what does it really matter?

Is it important for our spiritual welfare to remember the facts, details and events of this worldly existence? Truly, it is not.

I recently returned from a month-long stay in India. I was traveling alone, this time with more than I could easily manage: two 50-lb. suitcases, a 20-lb. carry-on and a shoulder bag with wallet, money, cell phone, passport and boarding pass.

Getting from Ananda’s Gurgaon ashram at midnight, into a cab to the Delhi airport, and then to the airline counter–without forgetting or losing an essential item–became a major ordeal. Alas, though I am compulsively careful to assure that nothing is missing, something was missing when the cab was already in route, and we had to turn back. My phone had been left on a table where I’d set it while writing a note just before heading out the door.

I started to grouse about this bothersome twist, and then paused to think about where it fits in the longer rhythm of things. Essentially, it would soon disappear, having no effect whatsoever on the rest of my life.

What we really need to remember is that we need to forget about listening to the voice inside us that causes us to lose our way back to God. Serving and supporting each other in a spirit of self-offering–in self-forgetfulness, that is–is what will speed our journey to Self-realization.

Among the great blessings we have before us is Swami Kriyananda’s enormous creative output, achieved primarily by his self-forgetful attunement to Master and to God as Divine Mother. Nothing he ever did was about him. And nothing he ever accomplished was for personal gain.

Swamiji’s sole motivation was to serve God and Guru as their disciple, and by virtue of his humility and attunement, he was ever in bliss. As he wrote and sang in his song In the Spirit, “I was caught up in ecstasy. ‘Twas a day sanctified by God. There He showed me the gifts of heaven, gifts that all seeking Him could know.”

It is tempting to excuse ourselves from that level of consciousness, to say that Swamiji was simply more advanced than any of us. Maybe so. But wouldn’t we all like to have what he had: inner peace and joy? Wouldn’t we like to know what it means to be eternally free? Nobody gets there by asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Remembering to forget ourselves by giving the best that is in us is the key to the bliss we seek. Such is the yogi’s way. Such is the way to claiming heaven’s gifts right here on earth.

Looking for Balance in an Unbalanced World

I find myself looking for balance often. I wonder about its existence! As a matter of fact, balance has become a bit of a “four-letter word” in my life. Oh sure, right…it’s real, balance. It’s something that I have felt for all of about 4 minutes. Maybe.

Nayaswami Jyotish talked about balance or unbalance during the Saturday retreat. It was a statement that ultimately had me shaking my head…yes, yes, that is so true!

This world is made to keep you off-balance!

We are all basically Olympiads and this lifetime is like one long performance-routine. Selecting that perfect outfit. Deciding on the correct routine for today, and chalking-up our hands. Will it be the right expression our true self? Wanting to gain those dharma-points from all the judges.

A play of light and shadow.

Yogananda used to take His disciples to the movies. Pointing up to the beams of light pouring out of the projector room, he would comment on how it is all just a play of light and sahdows. Life is just a movie, a performance of sorts. A good reminder.

The spiritual seeker, learns this early on. These lives are just movies, no matter the “routine” we decide upon. We have incarnated to play out our part of past karma—learning the lessons, mitigating karma—and yet, sometimes we strengthen those tendencies that pull us out of balance.

This world was made to pull us out of balance!

No one is really safe from this! Nayaswami Devi pointed out that it is restlessness, caused by the world wanting to unbalance us, that makes the spiritual path of low importance or low priority in our lives!

We have ways of bringing ourselves back into balance. Re-gaining our center. Like when a child-athlete almost trips, wobbles on the beam, misses that ball, and everyone is taking a collective breath, praying they make it. And they rebalance themselves.

In last week’s article of Awesome Tips from Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi, they gave us a routine that we can work with to make our own. It will strengthen our “muscles” and guide us to stay true to our Self. Our practices are the routine to keep us safe in this lifetime.

We can navigate that skinny beam while it demands the most complicated flips and turns from us at what seems like the worst time. And as any teacher says, “practice makes perfect.” And in this case it’s true. It’s a practice…not a “complete”! We need to keep trying. Keep practicing.

Quoting a friend, Nayaswami Devi mentioned, “There are only two mistakes that we make on the spiritual path, not to start on the path or to stop.”

Yogananda, Jesus and all the saints and avatars have come to guide us, to be our coaches. It might be helpful to remember that they too, “at one point in their evolution sat in the same place that you are in right now.” said Nayaswami Devi. And they kept practicing, and they accomplished that perfect performance, merging with the Divine eternally.

This is in us! We can do this! They will give us their love and support unconditionally. See, when we put a little effort into our spiritual path, we are always getting a “10” from all the Divine!

We are all on the same team, after all.

When Life Keeps Giving You Lemons! (part 2)

Or Practicing What you Preach

So you know that saying, “Just when you think that it could not get any worse….”

It does.

Molehill (Yup! You know it. Here we go again!)

I finished taking a yoga class, and was on my way to the coffee shop. It’s Portland after all, and time for my weekly meeting. Coffee ordered, feeling good, drank more water. Phone is buzzing like crazy in my purse.

Mountain

Hmmm… there are several texts, and I just missed a call from my husband and noticed that I actually missed two from him. The intuitive Mommy’s-this-does-not-feel-right-sensor sprang to life. And the uhoh springing to my lips before I even have a realized. I called him back.

He answers the call and the first thing out of his mouth…”Honey, I am in the ER of OHSU…” (Well, my head, heart and adrenals just kicked in, or out as the case may be.)

Everest (Big and looming)

Not passing go. Not collecting anything. Not thinking clearly. Not being calm inwardly. Feeling a bit fluttery, airy, ungrounded. That rug was just pulled out. (Thank goodness I did yoga that morning!)

My dear friend offers and then drives me to the ER, as I realize that I don’t want to be alone. I don’t think that I could follow my Google directions to the ER anyway.

Dump Truck of Lemons!

We get to his room in the ER and he is fine. Banged and scrapped up pretty badly. But fine. No head injury. (Thank you Guruji!) Nothing broken. (Thank you again Guruji!) And he was almost ready to be discharged and come home.

Now after getting ice packs, showered, seated, and finally fed, things seemed to calm down. Time to start the insurance calling. Calling family. Preparing to tell our daughter.

And then I get an incoming phone call from a number I don’t recognize. I answer it, in case it’s the insurance company or some such thing.

It was the woman that hit my husband. And I am thinking while she is talking, “HEY! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID?!!?!?!” (Sorry for the caps, but it was really loud in my head.)

In my head, maybe heart, I suddenly realized that I am not listening, and she is apologizing. And she is repeating things, a sure sign that she was under duress.

I stopped my thoughts, backed it up and started to answer her carefully honestly and with as much compassion that I could access.

Of course…no…you must feel bad. He is fine. Ah-ha! He is fine. Really, he is fine!

She goes on to tell me just how wonderful he was in the moments following the accident, supporting her, calming her down. Letting her know that he was in fact okay.

That he was glad that it was him that this happened to.

Bring On that Lemonade.

He was glad, because it was not as horrible as it could have been. And he could maintain his compassion for her, for how badly she was feeling. And thus divert his mind from his situation, his self-focus shifted onto her, and not the pain that he was feeling at the time.

I was thinking, as I was talking to this poor woman, of Swami Kriyananda and of Yogananda. What would they say to this woman? What would they want her to know? Maybe feel?

He will be okay. He will heal. And yes, we are grateful that it was not so terrible. Please try not to worry any longer. He will heal and it will all work out.

Making Mountains Out of Molehills

Or Making Lemonade Out of Life’s Lemons (part 1)

There are so many times…ah, like when you (or someone you know and love dearly) break something…that it feels like life is trying to get you down. It is challenging you in ways that you really don’t think could possibly be needing this level of challenge.

It’s one of those times when you are asking, “Did I really signup for this? I think that I need to see that contract! Please!?”

So. Right, injury happens. Don’t know how bad. Ice it, elevate it, immobilize it. Ask your friends that are natural medicine-inclinded what they think. Possibly suggest. Adding your own bits to the mix.

Molehill.

The appointment that confirms parts that you did not want to know. You come away from the appointment still not really knowing much, but knowing enough to understand that it’s not good. Hearing the word fracture and knowing it’s even a bit worse then you thought or hoped. Crutches. A cast/boot. Immobility. Pain even. Doctors appointments. X-rays. More appointments. (Can you tell what I have been doing lately?)

Mountains.

Next appointment with specialists. Your time in that cast/boot is longer then you had hoped. Your mobility will be hindered for longer then you wanted. Plans need to be changed.

Everest!

This has in fact been my life these past two plus weeks, though the break was not mine. My daughter’s. She’s almost 11, it’s the end of school, and there’s a special outing this week. Then those fated words, “It’s a slow healing fracture.” Oh, ugh!

Okay, so we are driving home. She is in a boot, after talking her out of a cast. For how long? Don’t really know, as it will need to be reaccessed every 3–4 weeks.

The PA (Physician Assistant) was reaching out to give hope and mentioned that another young lady “blinged up” her boot. Ah HA! I took the PA’s advice. And so next stop, the craft store, bought a few items (thank you Duck Tape!) and some glimmer gems.

Is that a pile of lemons?

She said to me at one point while we were driving, that this is why she could not go to the preferred acting camp! Being in the boot and with crutches, it just would not work. But having to change to the singing camp is better, as it does not matter about the boot. (After all she sang Mahler’s 3rd with the Oregon Symphony on crutches and with the boot!)

Time to make that delicious thirst-quenching lemonade.

We get home and then start to cover said boot with bling and tape. And it looks…oh so much better! Not nearly as boring. And it’s hers. A bit of a smile.

Drinking Life’s Lemonade.

Seeing the good in a situation that seems/feels bad is not always easy. It does require a calm mind and heart. And lots of deep deep breathing.

I try to remember what Paramhansa Yogananda said, that all situations are neutral (!!). It is our reaction(s) and/or response(s) to them that make them positive or negative.

And at some point, like the Saints, we want to find and live in that neutrality. That place where crashing worlds do not sway us. Further allowing the deeper connection with God and the Infinite Universe.