Seeking God

We got a drooling kinda love

I have been reading a lot lately, and one of the books I read extolled the virtues of meditation (not that I was difficult to convince). So I sat down the very next morning at 4.30 am to enjoy 30 minutes of silence while everyone was asleep.

Surprise, surprise. It was a cacophony in my head. Doesn’t matter how quiet the house is, I realised, when the space between the ears is noisy.

Still, I forgave myself since it was day one of meditation after a very long time, and tried again the next morning. This time, I didn’t make it past even a few minutes, so difficult was it to sit still. I became so disillusioned, in fact, that I gave up meditation completely.

Today, though, my perspective shifted.

Doggy love: When it comes to living in the moment, you gotta hand it to dogs. They probably pioneered the concept. If I leave home even for 30 seconds to go get something from the car, they jump all over me as if they’re seeing me after years. When I come out of the shower every morning, they drool all over my feet in happiness to have me back after a mighty long time, unconcerned that — hello?! — I’ve just washed myself squeaky clean. If I scold them for barking too much from the balcony at the neighbourhood strays, they put their heads down for precisely three seconds before they’re wagging their tails and expecting me to do something exciting (like tickling their ears) instead.

They’re never sad for long; they never hold grudges; they are quick to forgive and always ready to receive adoration. There’s no ego or shame or pride in their relationships. It’s just pure, unadulterated, unconditional LOVE ME RIGHT THERE BABY.

Why yoga: Then today, at my Gita class, the topic came up about Krishna extolling yoga as the path to achieving Him (or enlightenment). The teacher elaborated that one of the key lessons in the tome is: “All of life is yoga. There is no part of it that is more or less important than others. Everything that happens, all activities, all relationships, all events, can be used for yoga.”

In other words, yes, yoga is the path. But whatever path you are on is also yoga.

I considered my sweet dogs and their mindfulness meditation of being 100 per cent present in every moment of their lives. I considered my restlessness as I sat down to meditate in the silent darkness a few days ago. I looked at my cravings, my habits, my fears that drew me in directions I didn’t really want to go any more. I dwelt on the changing landscape of my desires, always wanting something more, always seeking something new, always in a state of flux.

And I thought to Krishna, “This, too, is my path, isn’t it?” All these colours, too, are what life wants to paint through me.

My dreams, at the moment, have got drool all over them. I can mourn the mess, or I can use this opportunity to turn yikes to yoga, and tickle Life’s ears back.

Love me right there baby.

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Seeking God

Naked

One of the folktales about Krishna relates an incident when the teenage god, wont to flirt with the young women (gopis) in his village, hides amongst the trees when they’re bathing. Naughty as ever, he snatches up all their clothes and runs away to a corner. When they’re done with their bath, they look around for their clothes and realise what he’s done. They plead with him to return their clothes, but he just sits there grinning wickedly, his eyes dancing in merriment. Finally, he challenges them to come and collect their clothes from him one by one, their arms up above their heads so that he can watch them walk towards him, dripping wet in nakedness and vulnerability. He returns their clothes, one bashful woman at a time.

When I first heard this story in my youth, I was chagrined at the blatant sexism and sexual harassment evident in the epic parable. I was shocked that Krishna, my favourite god, could do this to any woman. I hated him for it.

Many years later, after some episode in my life that I’ve now forgotten, I finally understood what this story meant. Since Krishna was not just any man but the Supreme Being Himself, the gopis were not being harassed, they were being blessed. They were being taught the art of surrender, and the divine gift inherent in vulnerability. They were forced to strip themselves of not just their clothes but their ego and their sense of ‘I’, the identity we all create for ourselves. The bathing was symbolic, of course. In Krishna’s merry all-knowing gaze, they were cleansed of their self-delusion and self-importance. In his benevolent smile, they became immortal, their imperfections converted to perfection in the eyes of God, their beauty sealed for eternity.

Nakedness and surrender come together in this ancient story. When we are stripped of all labels and trappings, we can either grapple to recover some clothes and sense of assumed dignity, avoiding humiliation. Or we can surrender and liberate ourselves. In our innocent nakedness, we free ourselves of shame.

Suddenly, I find myself without labels, without the trappings of fame and fortune. In one fell swoop, a major role in my life has been rendered void. Like the gopis in the water, I initially cry and mourn and beg Krishna for cover. Then I see Him sitting there, atop the hill of my salvation, grinning like an imp, beckoning me to walk over in all my naked glory. “You can either cower there in the water forever,” He challenges, “or you can surrender to me, washed of all illusions and delusions of self, and allow me to save you.”

“This is just a game for You,” I say, angrily. “You will do as your whim, how do I trust You? How do I know what further harassment awaits?”

He lays back, His head behind his head, crosses His feet and blows bubbles in the air. “Do you have a choice?”

I grit my teeth in frustration. “I do not,” I call out. “I am forced to trust You.”

He rolls over on one arm, and grins wider. “So who’s blessed now?”

It is time, I realise. Gingerly, I rise above and take a step – in faith and in surrender.

Seeking God

Wanting what is

A large pile of unexpressed fears got buried under a typhoon of ‘busy’-ness all of the past fortnight. So occupied was I, that I no longer invested in my own daily oases of happiness or in stuff that I normally love doing, like writing on this blog.

When a turn of events turned the moth-balled carpet of suppressed anxieties on its head last night, and when a pain in my neck had begun to spread its threatening tentacles, I finally took the bull by the horns and decided to do something about it. The first step was to reach out to a bunch of girlfriends on a group chat for a laugh.

In the course of the lighthearted gossip, one said she wanted the work week to end. I suddenly realised I didn’t know what I wanted. I dug inside myself for an answer.

“I want to be happy,” finally said a small little voice at the back of my brain.

“What would make me happy right now?” I asked, and looked around the room, outside the window, inside my heart.

The yoga mat beckoned. Though I have given up on my yoga practice since December for the very silly reason that I can’t stand doing it on the dog-hair-strewn floor, I do meditate on that mat from time to time. So I brushed away the black and golden strands of hair off the floor, shooed the dogs away, spread out my mat and sat in half-lotus pose. In 15 minutes, despite the fact that the mind had whirred madly all through, I felt lighter and better. The neck stopped hurting.

But I wanted still more treats. I requested the man to put off the computer, turn his phone off, and give me undivided attention while the help (who thankfully turned up on time today) cooked us radish-stuffed rotis. We proceeded to have a long, satisfying discussion over breakfast about our dreams, ambitions and feelings. By the time the tea mugs were drained, I felt just wonderful – all talked out and happily empty.

Later, I asked myself again, “What do I want?”

A barrage of larger-than-life dreams flooded my brain, those secret goals one is too embarrassed to ever talk about. But overshadowing them all with love came another response: “Life is beautiful as it is. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

I watched with gratitude as the unspoken dreams smiled – awaiting gleefully, patiently for their fruition – while the Moment had its moment in the sun.

Seeking God

A divine journey

I read this excellent post on Tiny Buddha a couple of days ago, and it was so brilliant that I dwelled on it for hours later.

The crux of what the author Brad Alexander says is: Once you achieve a significant goal, you will not be the same person you were when you set out on the journey. The process of achieving your goal and the experience you have gained will have changed you. This is why the journey is the reward.

The concept completely resonated with me and I was instantly able to look back and see how my journeys had changed me, in ways more meaningful than even arriving at the destination:

From darkness to light: Before I was introduced to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism, I lived, what I call now, a blind existence. Unaware of the true nature of things, I believed in the shadows, created monsters out of wisps and mountains out of mistaken identities. In the journey to growing spiritual awareness, I became: (a) More compassionate towards myself and others. (b) Introspective in a healthy way, able to look at myself with kindness and objectivity. (c) Happier and more at peace with the world. (d) Comfortable with the silence, once my enemy but now my greatest source of divine strength.

From powerless to powerful: One of the greatest material shifts in my life has been my journey from being an unhappy, stifled homemaker to a working woman with, I am grateful to say, a fulfilling career. In the process, I was able to: (a) Apply and develop various inherent talents and skills. (b) Learn several more. (c) Teach them to others. (d) Reach out to a wider circle of influence, both through my workplace and through the publications I worked with. (e) Apply my still-growing wisdom and spiritual knowledge in real-time situations. (f) Develop a deep, unshakeable level of confidence in myself and in a sense of divine protection. (g) Feel more and more gratitude for the various gifts and blessings this job has endowed me with.

From stifled to free: Another momentous journey in my life has been the one from being stuck in toxic relationships to being able to make my own choices and assert myself. This is not just about letting go of a marriage; it is also about mending and investing in other relationships that once used to be stifling and limiting for me. In the process I learnt: (a) That love and hate are sides of the same karmic relationship. It is very possible to love and hate the same person at different points in your life. Once you realise this, you take your hatreds a little less seriously, and your loves a little more gratefully. (b) Any relationship can be beautiful and precious; it depends on your perspective and the amount you have invested into it. (d) You get the benefits of love by giving it away, not by waiting for someone else to fulfill you. (d) It is possible, and sometimes necessary, to sever ties with someone and yet wish them the best of everything in your heart. (e) That your only true responsibility is to yourself and your own happiness. As long as you are happy, all relationships fall in place. Do what it takes to be happy, and let go of guilts and expectations.

While the present evaluation points of all these journeys (I can’t say ‘end results’ because they’re still in progress) are delightful and heavenly in themselves, the process of becoming a better person and developing a deeper understanding of the universe has been an immeasurably valuable gift. It makes me look at the next big journey I must take (to lose 20 kg, sigh) with a little more optimism than dread. Who knows what lessons and growth await me there?