Monday, April. 13, 11:26 AM
Sividanda Ashram, Nayyar Dam, Kerala, India
I had a breakthrough today, so I’m very happy! After staying up waaay too late last night, having an in-depth conversation with my Ukranian roommate about spirituality, religious devotion and practice, yoga, mind-body connection, meditation, and enlightenment (phew!), I came to the conclusion that it’s ironic how this place is filled with people seeking enlightenment, but nobody’s found it (despite, in some cases, decades of effort). On a side note, it’s my opinion that if you’re actively pursuing a hard to acquire desire (like that to find love, for example) you probably won’t find it, as you’re trying too hard. Not impossible, but unlikely. The popular alternative (which seems to yield results) is working on loving yourself, and once that’s squared away then your rose-tinted destiny may include many of the peachy things that come with being in love, like a partner, some success and [short-lived] happiness. Anyway, doing Yoga combined with Hindu devotion aims to bring mind, body, and spirit together in well-honed unity; Bliss (along with ever-lasting life) is promised. I can respect this approach for the lost masses who are looking to find, although I don’t necessarily believe that you need to embrace the religious aspect to obtain the mid-body benefits. All this talk of meditation, transcendence and enlightenment piqued my curiosity… all are difficult to pull-off (even meditation), and require years, maybe a lifetime to achieve without a guarantee of any success (and it seems that most people don’t have you met anyone who’s reached Enlightenment, experiencing pure bliss on Earth?) Yet everyone’s trying. Wow! Somehow this fatalistic conclusion nonetheless gave me a challenge for today: I was going to meditate, dammit!
I’ve been going with the prescribed flow, and trying to meditate all week. This is new for me. I know The 12 Steps: sitting in a cross-legged, comfortable position; concentrating on my abdominal breathing, slowing it down; asking my mind to slow and be quiet; focusing my energy on the Chakra between my eyebrows; visualizing a happy/inspirational object, face or teacher and concentrating on it; chanting a personal Mantra… eventually stepping away and seeing the mind, quiet, ignored, in submission; then, stillness. And with practice and regularity (20-60 minutes a day) the duality of life (light/dark, good/bad, up/down) will disappear and we can transcend to the enlightened State of Bliss and Oneness!
I tried most of this, and realized how much Noise is in my head! Every time I tried, within moments, all kinds of random thoughts are coming from everywhere, songs are playing, I hear things and go off on tangents of thought… of course it takes time to ignore these things and get the mind to listen when you say Quiet! Last night during my evening meditation I was going for results… and I wouldn’t give up easily. Like with Enlightenment, for example, I don’t think it comes easy unless you’re really special, like a Guru, a Saint, or a Prophet… these guys don’t practice for years and years, hoping for results. They just know, they can just do it, see God, feel Divinity, move beyond the realm of regular humans. Practicing and hoping is for suckers. So instead of aiming for quieting stillness, I was going straight for the separation from my mind and body, (going straight for the end result of Oneness with the Universe, as I’ve experienced once before in my Greatest Moment, a long time ago). I was still with my eyes closed when the 20 minute candle-lit group meditation was over, the bright fluorescent lights illuminated my eyelids, and the 90-minute Satsang chanting was well-underway. I visualized myself leaving the mind. Hi mind, there you are! You’re so fidgety, quiet down! I’ll just ignore you… see ya later! Hey body! What are you doing, sitting down there, cross-legged in a group of 200 chanting Yogis? See you later Ashram, Trivandrum… Kerala… India… planet Earth… Milky Way… floating out in the far-away Universe, I could still hear the little boy singing his chilling prayer into the mic, and the thunderous chorus repeating backed by a drum-circle of 20. I imagined my head like a small tornado, which would deflect thoughts and sound from crossing my mind. Boom-ta-da-boom–Zing! This was working… any oncoming thoughts were ricocheting off my razor-sharp blender mind… I developed a defense, and I liked it. It was easy to visualize, and it seemed pretty effective. Now that I could destroy thought, I had to work on quieting that machine. Like the Yogi in my class suggested, I tried visualizing a single Rose between my eyes, fixing on it. Blah. I read somewhere recently that Enlightenment was a lone tree in front of a garden. Blah. In honor of Easter, I imagined Jesus Christ’s fair disembodied head floating in my face… but I couldn’t hold my concentration on it. (I should have tried looking in the mirror… you should see me with this beard! Haha!) Then I tried Axl Rose… easier to visualize. I’ll try some more tomorrow.
Today I skipped the morning group meditation (since I was up so late, I didn’t hear the bell.) When I had some free time I went into a little prayer room Cara showed me, which she likes to meditate in… usually I’m the only one in there, except for once when I shared 15 minutes with a visiting Sadhu. Today I slipped-in with 45 minutes to kill before the afternoon Asana (Yoga) Class. It wasn’t even quiet, with the windows and door open, but I didn’t care. Within moments I could blender any invading sounds, just like that. I tried visualizing my dear little turtle, and at first it wasn’t easy. I could see the point of his nose right up near mine, glimpses of his handsome little smile, his whole head! I tried over and over to see him there, and he would appear for moments at a time, coming in and out of the darkness. For twenty minutes I looked at my little boy’s face and, without any words (we need none) I told him how much I miss him.
I felt great. I didn’t think about much of anything the whole time in that candle-lit, incensed room, except seeing Axl. I snapped out of it when I heard the bell for the afternoon Asana class.
Today I also promoted myself from the Beginners Yoga class to Intermediate. (I got bored, yesterday.) This morning’s class was a real workout, but really fun. By the end of it I was so exhausted and drenched from exertion that I wasn’t sure how much energy I’d have for the afternoon class. I laid out my mat, ready to go. Usually, I look around at what everyone else is doing, I wobble around a lot (while standing on my head or balancing), my breathing is irregular, I have a mind full of noise. All of a sudden I was doing Yoga like it was an Olympic sport. My breathing (from the abdomen) was perfect I could visualize every breath filling up my lungs from the bottom-up, then only on deep breaths filling up my rib-cage too; exhaling like I was squeezing a tube a tooth paste from the bottom-up. For ninety minutes, I didn’t look around the room once. Whenever I wasn’t looking straight ahead or over my shoulder or at the ceiling, my eyes were closed, I was imagining Axl’s nose pressed to mine, I was whispering in my head I’m right here. I’m right here. That’s my mantra… it just came to me during the workout, inspired by one of the Yoga student’s shirts that I told her I loved yesterday: “You Are Here”, and it was also a recurring theme from a novel I just finished, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. What time is it? It’s now. Where are you? I’m here. I think I scored a 9.3. And it was easy. So much easier. Even my sweat felt so good… I wasn’t crusty-sweat-mop-post-workout-t-shirt wet; I felt more like I was just wearing a healthy glow on my tan, moist skin.
The first time I knew Axl was aware of me, I was 21 years old, he was three. It was his usual way to run around constantly, a hyperactive toddler with boundless energy, oblivious to most people in his non-stop, insatiable exploring. If you put it in front of him, he’d walk on or climb it. If you wanted him to stop moving those legs, you’d have to keep wishing! One day I was feeling really low, girl problems, pressures of school, I needed a friend. Axl was running around the room, we were playing endless treadmill (him walking in my hands), when he stopped. I looked at his sweet little face (which hasn’t changed a bit in 10 years), and he looked at mine. We shared a long, long, long moment, for the first time. From then on, if I needed him, he was there for me.
It works like this: if I pick him up (and he’s in a sleepy-state), I have a few minutes to take advantage of him, giving him many kisses and playing with all his loose limbs, showering him with affection. Then, when he’s more awake, he wants to get moving. But he’s also quite affection-starved, it seems, and when he wants attention, he really wants it. No different than a cat, he’ll follow you all around the apartment, being right under your feet. If you’re sitting on the ground or doing anything down low, he’ll walk onto your lap, cross the hills that are your limbs and back and butt, climb to the peaks that are your knees, shoulders and head. Always funny, when you put out your hands or arm for him to walk over, he’ll walk, but pause as he crosses you, a thoughtful snuggle before moving-on. And when I look into his eyes, or snuggle with him, nose to nose, he’ll stay like that for a while… until I fidget, or if I let my mind wander. He’s an attention-hog. When you’re feeding him, he wants you to watch his every bite. If you walk away, leaving him alone in his tiny feeding-tank, he’ll get pissed, and lose his appetite. And forget looking at the computer, reading, or talking on the phone while feeding… all eyes on me! So what I’m getting at is that, if you want to hold his attention, you have to give him all of your attention. Which is why he makes the perfect companion for meditation. As I do a back bend, I close my eyes, still, with our noses touching, and my form is perfect.
So I don’t know what this qualifies as… is it spiritual? It’s definitely transcendent. From 10 years of nuzzling Axl, I can close my eyes and clearly see him, and feel us doing what we always do… it crosses space and time. When I take him out of his aquarium, or when I find him dozing-off under my hamper and he’s sleepy, I always take him up to my face, and we pause there with tips of our noses together, and I kiss him on the head till he gets sick of it and wants to run around again. Few people know how affectionate we are. And it goes both ways, and in many ways. When I’m laying down with my chin on the floor, I can see him crawling up to me and stopping, with his nose touching mine. When I’m laying down at rest with head on my folded hands, he’s crawling up on my arm and sticking his face into mine. Hopefully, from this day forward, when I’m looking at the world upside-down, or at any angle, in any position, in any place, in any moment, Axl will be there, right between my eyes.