Lost in the Night

A thousand and one nights without You, my darling,

I collect thoughts like shards of glass from the street

and clutch them to my desperate heart.

But they all stab and cut in the end,

and the red dewdrops that appear

twin the tears in my eyes

at my own misunderstanding.

It’s not that You drift from me, but I from You,

slipping from our bed in a hypnotized passion,

to roam midnight calling for You by all the wrong names.

Why do I never remember what You told me?

To find a quiet place and think of You,

and You are there, constant as I am wavering.

I wonder why You permit my weakness,

my turning from our sacred love over and over

till I forget what Your touch feels like,

till the sight of myself in Your eyes

becomes a dim and painful memory –

peace too often veiled in darkness.

Oh my Most Beloved,

forgive once again Your inconstant lover,

teach this fickle heart to be true to You,

to know joy in Your certain embrace.

Day 17: Meditation on Boundaries

Touch each other’s fingertips

and shut your eyes tight.

Pin out the point

where “you” becomes “them,”

and let it dissolve.

Feel for what tingles,

multiplied and pulled into concentration

where skin softly meets.

Let wisps of need and confusion dart

a dance in the interim of me and you,

till separation is muddied,

and we see in each other

an abundance of “us.”

 

Beloved, teach me to see You

in the eyes of every frightened soul,

show me that dance of light

in the cries of a child,

peel my fists from my sheltered heart

and whisper how to give myself

to every shivering hand,

to let the light spill

like sparks in the darkness.

Day 14: How It Feels to Find Your Purpose

Last summer I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to find a sense of purpose. After leaving my job and the town I was living in, and knowing I was headed to an ashram in the fall, I gave myself permission to take a couple of months to figure out what I would do next.

I didn’t get very far. I was wrestling every day with where I should go, what job I should get, how I should live? What am I here to do? played on repeat in my head.

I looked into teaching requirements in Hawaii, massage therapy school in British Columbia, au pairing in Italy, and I all but bought my plane ticket to become a Buddhist nun in France. It’s possible I was having a slight identity crisis. Continue reading “Day 14: How It Feels to Find Your Purpose”

Protecting Your Spiritual Baby

dsc02192

I had a dream about a month ago in which I find an incubator abandoned in a dorm room. Inside is a single egg, with a chick much too young pushing his way out. He is so weak and fragile, his feathers slicked down. Once out he collapses on the sprinkling of sawdust, panting, his eyes half-closed. Slowly, gently, I pick him up, humming “Ambe Ma” (a bhajan meaning Divine Mother) under my breath. I am so filled with love for this tiny creature; I feed and cuddle him, keeping him warm and close to my chest. Large birds and cats appear from time to time, and I have to fight them off, clutching my baby, doing my best to defend him even though I never know when the next attack will surface.

Making spiritual practice a central focus in your life doesn’t seem very common these days in North America. Sure, there are sub-cultures but for the most part the principles of slowing down, being humble, trusting in a Higher Power, training the heart/mind run contrary to what mainstream society says we should be doing. Be number one. Dream big. Have it all. These are beautiful sayings, but they just don’t resonate with me. I prefer: Be kind. Serve others. Show gratitude. And sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand where we’re coming from, why we’re putting so much time and effort into something that doesn’t seem to create any external change.

They attack. Maybe in little more than a look or a smirk, but sometimes that’s all it takes. One word can form that doubt in my mind and suddenly the cat is at my elbow, licking its lips at the sight of my fragile little bird. The ego is always primed to devour my growing spiritual self so it can keep itself in charge. It waits for the moment when my baby is most vulnerable, and it will use anyone’s disapproval, judgement, or misunderstanding as a springboard. It’s my job to be a proud mama, to know my opinion is every bit as valid as theirs, to search the silence for answers, to listen to the needs of my baby.

I’m so used to listening to others and assuming they know better than me, it’s hard to stay focused on what I’m striving for, what I know to be true for myself. Even within the spiritual community, I admire so many teachers who seem to contradict each other – from Noah Levine to Doreen Virtue, atheists, mediums, meditators, preachers, I love them all. But trying to marry all of them and bind them in the spiritual patchwork of my heart leaves me wondering if I’m doing it “wrong”, as I look to all of them for validation instead of listening to the way my heart leaps at their words. My spiritual baby, the tender chick I’ve adopted as my own, is nourished by all of it. To deny him that nourishment, to be caught up in disappointing others or looking bad, is unfair of me. It’s not very maternal behaviour.

Then of course, there’s just so many distractions to keep me from practicing, from looking inward. There are so many ways to avoid dealing with my demons and growing the wiser, kinder part of myself. This morning I couldn’t think of what to write on here today and without the distraction of work I immediately went in search of something else. I opened books, I turned on the TV, I went online, I got something to eat, I daydreamed, nothing could hold me for long. Anything to prevent having to look inside.

Truthfully, I could keep running forever if I chose to. I could fill myself and my days with delights, accolades, relationships, clothes, haircuts, whatever, and never come back to the present moment. But let’s get real, if I never stop and feed him, my baby bird will die. Plain and simple. He’s so weak, so so little,  and he depends on his mama for everything.

He has so many soft points – society’s judgements, conflicting teachings, daily distractions. Thank God over ten years I’ve also learned some of the things that most help him grow:

Quiet – in the stillness and silence I can most easily discern the needs of my spiritual baby.

Forgiveness – in letting go and stopping the guilt trip I free up my hands to hold my baby closer.

Surrender – it takes a village, honey. Any single parent will tell you how much they value having other people help out with their child. I call on the whole universe daily to help with mine.

Blessing others- when I wish everyone well my whole energy changes. It’s no longer me and my baby against the world, just all of us in the world, making the best of it.

Thinking of my practice as a spiritual baby helps keep me focused because it ignites my compassion, picturing this innocent part of myself so in need of nurturing. It also wakes up my inner warrior, ready to defend my little inner family. And when these two sides of my spirit come together, lemme tell ya, I am a force to be reckoned with.

Blindfolded on a Tightrope

I’ll be honest with you. I have no idea what I’m doing in my life right now. I’m single, unemployed, and I’ve moved back in with my parents. I have no intention of living in this town or getting a job here, but no clue if I want to move somewhere or travel for a while or get further schooling. I have a degree in English literature and a certificate to teach English in a second language, and absolutely no desire to teach. Everyone keeps telling me my whole life is before me and I have so many options (which is true), but everything I encounter my heart greets with an unequivocal “Meh?” I always thought I’d find something that would leap out and grab me, that I’d have no choice but to devote my life to, that would have everything make sense. But nothing’s appearing. Is this what is meant by a quarter-life crisis?

Lately, however, I’m trying not to mind so much. The one thing I know is a constant in my life, the thing I feel most dedicated to right now, is my spiritual practice. And it so happens that part of the deal with a spiritual practice is learning to let go of all our plans for the future, and our visions of how life should look. Think about it: if you make the decision to walk straight forward into Light, you’re going to have a hard time seeing where you’re going. And that’s scary. No wonder so many of us on a spiritual path go through periods of shielding our eyes or turning our heads or flat out heading in the other direction, where at least the road ahead is visible.

There’s also the added bonus of going against the grain. While it seems everyone else is walking with the sun on their backs, gazing at their goals, their five year plans and security, we’re stumbling into sunlight, palms upwards, asking how we can be of service today. And that earns us some weird looks sometimes.

That said, no one promised me this would be easy. This mind/heart training, this internal shift, this unlearning of everything our culture teaches, it’s hard as hell, and there’s no curriculum. All I can do is trust in the wisdom that lies within me, that refuses to tell me more than what my job is today.

Once the image came to me of Shiva standing me on a tightrope stretched across a lake. He tied my hands behind my back and put a blindfold over my eyes, whispering “Trust me.” I had no choice. I took a step forward, and another, and every time it seemed I would fall I was somehow righted, without a drop of water on my skin. When at last I reached the other bank, my body cracked open like an eggshell, and Shiva stepped out. Because if I let go of my need to control and trust something far greater than myself, the idea of separation disappears. I stop defining myself by what I hope to achieve or who I hope will love me or where I hope to live; in fact, I stop defining myself at all. I give myself away and for a split second am reminded of the truth under everything: that all is one. I don’t belong to myself, we belong to each other. And with that knowledge in mind, the most sensible thing for me to say in the morning seems to be “How can I help today?”

The rest will take care of itself.

No Wrong Way

I recently spent two months at an ashram in British Columbia, a life-changing experience where I practiced karma yoga, but also rediscovered my love for mantra, prayer, bhakti yoga, and met incredible people who have given me the courage to continue on my path.

When I arrived I was struggling with how I should do some good in the world. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do a bunch of volunteer work or donate all my money. I was searching for my way to serve, and had only a very narrow idea of service to build from. Because that idea didn’t feel right at this moment in my life, I’d feel stuck, then guilty I wasn’t doing enough, then I’d try to motivate myself to serve again – it was an increasingly frustrating cycle.

So in one of our workshops when we were asked to bring forward a concern, I asked:

How can I best help or show compassion to others?

To clear our minds, we chanted for a few minutes to Shiva (Om Namah Shivaya) and an answer formed itself in my mind, the mantra acting as a lens so I could focus on it:

Be humble, dedicate everything you do to Me, and be an example for others. Don’t be scared, I’m with you.

This answer came so insistently from my Internal Teacher I couldn’t ignore it. So let’s break this down.

Be humble – I’m not going to change the world. I am one tiny person. Chances are, no matter how much pressure I put on myself, I am not going to cure cancer, save the rainforest, or stop cruelty to animals in this lifetime. I can give my support and a little of my resources to these causes, but I don’t have to be up to my elbows in them all the time. It doesn’t hinge on me. Humility has kind of a bad rep these days in our hyper-competitive world, but to me it’s become very closely related to freedom. I don’t have to carry the world on my back: it’s not my job to save everyone, and I’m not capable of it anyway. It’s a relief, not an insult. God has given me my own tiny part to play and the rest I don’t have to take on. I can be concerned, I can be compassionate, I can be filled with indignation about what’s happening in the world, but I don’t need to bully myself into thinking I need to solve it all. My small contribution of light is enough. My presence is enough.

Dedicate everything you do to Me – When I act with the intention of serving Spirit instead of myself, I surrender the results. If my motivation is getting the paycheque, or the dream partner, or the vacation, I try to control the process. Instead, I strive to allow it to be. And so it unfolds with far less effort and suffering, and less stress for myself and those around me. When my actions are in service to the Divine, I hold them loosely, knowing they aren’t mine, and I’m better able to release them when the time comes. I trust that whatever happens is for my Highest Good.

Be an example for others – To me this means implementing my beliefs, showing outwardly what I’ve learnt through my practice. It’s trying every day for kindness, understanding, patience, all the things I value. It has so much more power than I give it credit for. I know in my life where a kind word has been a catalyst that took me down a different road, gave me faith in myself, or showed me a new perspective, but I discount my own power to do that for others. My ego likes to tell me it’s not enough, I’m not enough. But we are enough. We always have been. And there’s nothing we can ever do to lose that.

Don’t be scared, I’m with you – I’m not alone in anything I do. I am supported beyond what I can conceive, even when it doesn’t feel like it. God and fear can’t coexist in the same moment, because God is love. And love is the opposite of fear. Every time I am lost in fear (about a thousand times a day), the universe is patiently waiting for me to realize my unity with it again.

So for now I’m trying to stop pressuring myself to save the world, and just surrendering all my ideas of what I think I should be doing. Give it all away, so I’m hopefully left only with love, so whatever I do is putting light into my little corner of the world. It might be helping my mum with the groceries, it might be encouraging a friend through a rough day, or perhaps it might be through poems, love, and prayer.

Shiva is my Boyfriend

I’ve been thinking with longing about my last couple of years of university; the frequent bliss, joy and peace I felt then. While it was due in large part to meditation, I think it was also to do with my deep, secret belief that one day I would find my “soulmate”, a human figure kept comfortably in the future. And when I found them I would know true intimacy and happiness. I loved to believe that my soulmate and I had never truly been separated, and we were together in spirit always. The thought made me feel connected, protected, loved.

I cherished this fantasy for a long time and it ignited a deep well of love in me whenever I thought of it. And while of course I was misguided in placing all that expectation on a human being, I’m now aware that eternal, unconditional connection and acceptance is available to me in the Divine. I’ve been longing for the joy I used to feel, but I can feel it now, just by being aware of how madly, deeply, and unendingly God loves me. And how much I love God. Because we long for each other, because I am God and God is me. Because we are Love.

Surrendering to that embrace, believing myself worthy of it, is my spiritual path. That’s where the joy lives, the childlike wonder, the ecstatic rush of bliss we taste when we fall in love, that’s how it feels when we can admit how much Spirit loves us. And then, finally, I find the strength to be fully myself, to reach out to others, to serve, to do good things and hard things in my own tiny human way. Because the universe loves me. And it’s been waiting all my life for me to remember that.

 

I am a dog tied to a pole

running and running

and all the while winding down, down, into the centre,

back to stillness.

Why do You accept my fickle, wandering heart and

lavish it with a love that slices right through my bones,

splits me wide open until the whole world fits inside?

Is it because You know every new infatuation, hypnosis, distraction,

it’s really all You in disguise?

Do You watch me like a child, as I’m

chasing butterflies and watching them fly,

picking flowers and seeing them wilt,

building in sand and finding it crumbles?

Do You watch me with that love in Your eyes

that peels me naked and wraps me around You

till my body becomes Your ornament,

and smile as You think to Yourself,

“One day she’ll realize. And she’ll come home at last.”

And my Darling, within this frail mortal heart I know it’s true.