adventures of a fearless (mostly) globe trotting seeker...
wondering, wandering, barefoot, nomadess

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The scent of damp earth

It rained last night.
It is amazing how erotic the smell of damp earth can be.
like a fold of skin, the spice of an inner thigh or amrpit,
hidden and intimate.
it is as if the falling rain makes the scent of the earth rise and she smells like a woman's body. devi.
dark and sweet and full of secrets.
like the secret of how decay nourishes the earth and fertilizes her body...falling leaves decay and become earth again to grow new buds. regeneration, like my orouborus tattoo, a snake eating it's tail. death brings life. i have brought myself here to this strongly spiced land to die again, to let the parts of me that are heavy and keep me from shining die.
die before you die.
alchemy-tantra, take the poison and turn it to nectar.
fearlessly facing the poison in the world.
the poison in myself.
the mother knows this. she knows the dark earth and the mud is where the sweet lotus grows.
her musky thighs are sex and birth, and her yoni is the mouth of kali.
it is easy to lose yourself in her intoxicating dance.
that is why so many spiritual seekers wear white and turn from their shadows, denying the illusion of the world-maya. the world is woman.
someone said you can't become a tantric, you are born one.
i read a buddhist meditation about meditating on the peacefulness of a flower, we should be as peaceful as the flowers.
are the monks blind?
do they not see the flower's lush honeyed fullness calling to be made love to by the bees?
to be known in the full glory of it's beauty, the flowers whole body; stem, petals, fragrance and color are aching and calling out to be fulfilled in that embrace before, like all things, it's body must give way to decay and death.
how can they not see the flowers passion and longing?
maybe they are not women, ah, isn't it so?
tantra is the path of the feminine. the woman. passion, emotion, life, power, creativity...shakti.
the leaves fall so the new growth may rise.
fall and rise.
like my own soft belly when i breath.
and there it is again, all the secrets of creation, of the mystery, are in the fall and rise of each breath. in the manifest form of the divine, my own body.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

a day and night in india...

the still of morning

woke up 5am yesterday at the ashram, it was still black out. i like to wake up before the sun, before the day, before everyone else starts stirring. it is like a pregant pause, a secret world for me alone. i dressed quickly and walked into the cool darkness of the earth, the only thing stirring is the powdery dust between my toes. in the dark i have to feel each step, reading the ground like braille with my bare feet. i was excited to sit outside my teachers door. i could hear him awake, but he had not come out yet so i sat and felt our exchange of energy. it is up to me if i want to feel alone. it is a good example here, as i sit outside the door, waiting. an example for everything in my life. i cannot have everything when i want it or how i want it. sometimes i must cultivate the art of waiting, which becomes a sublime partner in itself.
who is with me as i wait alone?
my thoughts are with me.
my heartbeat is with me.
the smell of the morning, carrying the burnt ashes from the fires they use to burn trash, that is also with me.
my body is with me. i listen to my body. she is a little achey. it will be alright.
i send my energy into my teachers room and connect to it, then it is like a wave moving between us. every moment of life is full.

the roosters begin to sound the day. now their is more world awake than me. the cook brings me chai from the little kitchen. they still cook with fire from wood, squatting in front to stir the food. i think it tastes better this way.

i walked up to the rooftop to watch the mists still covering the hills in violets, lavenders and grays. the hills seem to fade off into another world. It seems a land time has forgotten. I expect a dinosaur any moment. The shapes of the hills are like the curves of a woman's body, who has gracefully draped her form here. one looks like a profile of a face with parted lips, another looks like a hip and another pointed like a breast. The hills here are lush and green and the earth is an orange-red color.

only the sound of the crows. I can see the path snaking through the jungle from where i sit up high on the roof. there are a few lonely figures with baskets of coconuts on their heads walking the dusty red road from the local village. beginning the work of the day. earning a living to care for their families. a friend told me once, god moves like a snake, in an unpredictable zig zag movement.

the soul's body

the mother is so present here. she has so many faces. the one that changes in my dreams, stirring up all the undigested bits of my psyche. dreams are so vivid and yet the sleep is so heavy here. i feel her in a heat that feels like physical burning, but which i have come to love as a physical experience of her presence. this morning is her breath. i dream her dreams. my body is her body and my eyes are her eyes.
my sufi teacher in turkey used to ask me,
"who sees through your eyes?'.
the Soul sees through your eyes."
yes, we are the soul and the soul's body made flesh. india is the heart of this body, pumping with blood and life. a land of contrasts. this world, this life is made of contrasts, isn't it?


later, i went to the city, such a change. bustling with dirt, people, a naked boy stands in the street touching himself. his black eyes stare out at the world unapologetically. it feels good to him, he has yet to become aware of shame. of course, i guess it wouldn't do to walk around with my pants down all day!

the forgetfulness of sleep

when i finally fell asleep last night, i truly fell. i was given the key to a devotees apartment in the city, and i let myself and my into the empty place. i went to the bathroom. i believe bathrooms in prisons are nicer. i thought, "dear jesus, i am so tired, is a nice bathroom too much to ask for?" too tired to wash my face, my dusty feet or brush my teeth, i fell asleep in the strange bed drooling. matresses were there, but no sheets. i was too tired to think of the cleanliness of the bed. i took my dress and laid it on the bed for some smell of myself rather than all the strangers who had slept and sweat here before. sleep came heavy and brought forgetfulness. my companion sang over my body, gently stroking my face and hair. i am grateful for love and human kindnesses. it did not matter where i was or the bed. i folded gently into myself, into my mind and dreams.
a contemplative question in the yogi path is:
"who is dreaming when i sleep?"

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I am in love with my Guru

Guru-disciple relationship

This is a highly charged topic. Many people believe it is sacriligious or just plain superstitious to have a guru. I think it is an inner experience which is difficult to share let alone justify. there are many moon-eyed guru followers who look to their gurus for salvation instead of being spiritual grown ups. On the other hand, there are many people whose egos are too big to surrender to the intimacy of this kind of relationship and so they cannot understand why others would do it.
I could go into a lot of intellectual explanation about the psycholigical advantages of this relationship built on archetypes, but I don't feel like it. Finding a guru is like falling in love.

Who can explain it? Love is often sillyand blind. Yet it calls us to give more of ourselves, it is a high enticement to stretch ourselves and to grow and change. Love itself is an altered, trance-like state. When someone is first falling in love, they have that secret smile, all knowing and shpinx-like. They are forgetful but they do not care. The are enraptured in their inner experience.

Altered States
Altered states are very useful in healing the psyche from traumas which often limit our development. that is why Frued used hypnosis in psychotherapy. altared states tap into the subconscious and if navigated skillfully, this can bring about awareness and harmony between the conscious and subconscious. It is the separation and lack of syncing between these two consciousnesses that cause a great deal of human psychological suffering. So potentially, the love between a guru and sisya (discipile) can be an incredibly powerful and transcendental tool for self-exploration and spiritual awakening.

Magical thinking
i do not expect my guru to magically fix my suffering and problems and enlighten me. I feel his compassion, his unconditional acceptance of me, and that has created a bridge that allows me to find healing in myself. Traditionally, a guru becomes your mother and father. My own mother and father had their own struggles. There was abuse and this was painful to me. It made me protect myself and be in survival mode. at around 25, i realized i wanted more to my life. i wanted to stop surving and to feel more and grow. Still, i carried the hurts of myself as a child into all my adult relationships, an inherant mistrust and fear of being hurt again. When i met my guru i felt so loved. i felt him as my ideal parent. at first i hid in that comfort, but over time it has forced me to grow. if i had not felt loved, i do not know how i would have begun that process of opening myself, of exposing my shadows.

"How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being, otherwise we all remain
too frightened."
-Hafiz, sufi poet

Healing the Inner Child
Over the years i have spent with my guru, i have been gently nudged out of my nest and pushed to grow. to take responsability for my choices on my path, to become more aware of myself and my motivations. to see how the places i felt unloved or abused by my parents had driven me to extremities, be it drugs, sex or spiritual practices. and that ultimately the healing and acceptance i seek i will have to find by holding that hurt child myself.
Love Heals
It is often the intimacy with another that spurs our growth, inspires us to risk and grow. There is a love we can only get from God and there is a love we can only get from human relationships. In the past I used my spiritual practice as a way to hide from human intimacy and vulnerability. My burning longing for god was in part because I did not trust the love of other people. I hope my love for God opens me to people and my love for people opens me to God. My love for guru walks both those worlds.

Can a Guru give you samadhi (enlightenment)?
When I arrived in India a week ago, I sat with my teacher. we were in a room full of people laughing and visiting. I sat on the floor as is the custom in india. after a few minutes I felt a waterfall of blissful energy running through my whole body. No, that not quite right. I felt more life running through my body, I felt more ALIVE. If i said i felt bliss it would convey only one emotion. I felt every emotion and yet complete stillness.

Why does my energy activate when i am near my teacher?
There are mystical explanations that would require some faith, like saying that my guru can activate and switch my levels of consciousness through the power of his own awakening and through the connection of our guru-sisya relationship. if that is too far out for you, it seems that we can all agree that we affect each other, that there is a sympathetic response to another person's energy. In the most obvious example of this, if you walk in the room and there is a very sad or very angry person, it immediately affects your own energy even if no words are exchanged. Some kind of emotional osmosis. Perhaps it is because of the nature of our relationship, the closeness, surrender and intimacy that i feel with my teacher that allows the energy to pass or resonate so easily between us.
Personal Practice and Initiation
Of course, there are also the personal practices of yoga, meditation, prayam and bandhas that charge the system and stimulate the brain. i am sure the many years of pranayam have changed the wiring of my brain and the amount of energy i am charged with. from my own experience though, it is invaluable to personal understanding and deepening of yoga to have a close relationship with a living teacher, especially if your practices involve initiation.

Sleepless nights and Spiritual Insomnia

"ïn this state there is no Siva (sun),
nor any holy union..
only a somewhat something moving
dreamlike on a fading road."
-lalla, female kashmiri mystic

and so it is...i woke up this morning early. my two travelling companions still asleep on the matresses that were laid out on the marble floor. it was nice to sleep last night. i hadn't slept for 3 days before that. not because of insomnia...but because when i come to india, it's like sticking my finger in a light socket of electricity...shakti. the land is very strong with this energy, and i feel it running through the soles of my bare feet , up my legs and electrifying my whole system. also, this happens when i am near my teacher. the last 3 nights i have laid down exaughsted from long days and found myself lying in the dark completely alert. i could feel the different energy centers whirring with energy, especially my heart. there was no self-doubt or anxiety that makes sleeplessness painful for the mind. a deep sense of peace, expansion and weightlessness as if i were floating in an ocean. i was aware of thoughts drifting by in the stream of consciousness. there was not much emotional weight connected with the thoughts, and so they floated past me easily. i would use the time to chant my guru mantra, over and over, folding time into circles of syllables like rolling haybales in a great field. even though i was not sleeping, i felt timeless.
No sleep for the saints?
there are many stories of saints and gurus who never sleep, or need very little sleep. a contemporary guru, Amma, performs the super-human feat of staying up for days, without eating or using the bathroom, hugging all the people who come to see her for blessings. my own guruji goes to bed around 10:30pm, gets up at 2am and works on returning emails or writing until around 5am, then lays down again to get up for morning chai between 6-7am. I have heard him snoring, so I do know he sleeps sometimes!
Kundalini affects your sleep
Since I began practicing tantra, which awakens kundalini, I have gone through periods of not sleeping, and being very creative and active. I have also gone through periods of sleeping many hours, the sleep descending on me like a heavy syrup that doesn't allow me to keep my eyes open. I always consider this a "re-booting"of my computer, after installing a new software program.

My body, my slave?
Though my spirits are good my eyes are still burning from no sleep. My poor body! It reminds me of one of my teachers I met on my first trip to India. He was a tiny, very intense swamy who came from the Sivananda and Bihar lineages of yoga. I loved to watch his excitement as he demonstated asanas and bandhas, his small, lithe body like a live wire. He would wrap his orange swamy sheath around and around, tucking it here and there, until he could flip upside down on his shaved head without exposing anything immodest. One day, after demonstrating a particularly difficult asana, he said, "I use my body like a slave", and he grinned from ear to ear. I don't use my body like a slave. I am very grateful for her and I listen attentively to her inner tunings and the ocean of intelligence moving constantly just under my skin.

Kundalini and insomnia:
"It is also likely that the practioner will experience insominia. However, yogis do not call it insomnia. They say, "Why should I sleep?" If you love a person very much and he stays with you and does not allow you to sleep, will you call that insomnia? There are yogis who do not sleep and are happy about it because yogis have an entirely different attitude. They say 1/3 of the life is wasted in sleeping. So when kundalini awakens in a yogi and consciousness is constant and consistent, and there is no waking, sleeping and dreaming, they are happy about it. Therefore, insomnia does not usually bother a person who has awakened kundalini. Just accept your sleeplessness and enjoy it. You can do japa meditation or just do some spiritual reflection. If this is not possible, just lie down and let it happen as it will."
-Kundalini Tantra, Swami satyananda Saraswati

Sex, Spiritual Awakening and Stimulating the Brain

Sexual Energy and Prudishness

in my practice of yoga and tantra, i have especially worked with moolah bandha, the cultivation of sexual energy. the seat of kundalini is said to be in the lower chakras. primarily the root and sex chakra. How can this be! The seat of evolution or untapped creative potential is in the no-no zone of the body?! It always makes me laugh how prudish spiritual seekers become about sexual energy, trying to refine it to more sublime spiritual states. this denial of the body seems a hard way to go, and a mirroring of the basic shame humans seem to have about living in a body. why are we ashamed to live in a body, why are we ashamed of sex? isn't it sex that brought us here, in the orgasmic embrace of our own human mother and father? what a god-like experience in creating a whole new life! But there seems to be an inherant struggle for us to accept or harmonize our spirit with our human side.

Original Sin and Reincarnation

why are we subjected to death and suffering in this life? In christianity this is explained as original sin. in hinduism, the soul is reincarnated succesively until the karma is burned up and the soul can be free of reincarnations. Is it so bad to be alive? The christians become obseesed with going to heaven and the hindus become obsessed with avoiding reincarnation. Why? I think it is because it is so hard to live in a world of opposites. Here, in this human form, it is inevitable that we will experience death as well as birth, that we will experience sorrow as well as joy. Pain is the opposite hand of pleasure, and both hands open the heart. in trying to avoid pain, we often deny the basic pleasure of being human, of enjoying the world life and the body. In tantra we say the body is not just the vehicle to God, the body is itself God. The marvel of the body must be proof of higher intelligence, whether you believe that exists outside in the form of a God or creator, or exists from within as a human attribute doesn't matter as much as learning to marvel at the wonder of your body and present human existence.

Money, Sex and Power, Punk Rock Yoga!

My teacher says shame is debilitating human evoltion and personal healing. if there is a blockage in your heart or mind, he says, the origin of that blockage is coming from the lower 3 chakras or development centers. the lower 3 chakras are Mooladhara (root, survival), Swadhistana (sex organ, creativity) and Manipura (navel, power). Or as I like to call them...Money, Sex and Power! Rock and Roll, this is some serious punk rock shit! Who says spiritual practice is boring?!

Here is some science (or esoteric propaganda if you are more skeptical):

Only using 10% of your brain:

"The awakening of kundalini and its union with Shiva is immediately and intimately connected with the whole brain. to explain it simply, we can say the brain has 10 compartments, and of these 9 are dormant and one is active. whatever you know, whatever you think or do is coming from one-tenth of the brain. the other nine-tenths, which are in the frontal portion of the brain, are known as the inactive or sleeping brain.

why are these compartments inactive? because there is no energy. the active portion of the brain functions on the energies of ida and pingala, but the other nine-tenths have only pingala. pingala is life (energy) and ida is consciousness (awareness). if a person is living but is unable to think, we say he has prana shakti (life force)but no manas shakti (intelligence energy). similarly, the silent parts of the brain have prana, but not consciousness.

therefore, a very difficult question arises, which is how to awaken the sleeping compartments of the brain? In kundalini yoga, it was discovered that the different parts of the brain are connected to the chakras. Certain areas are connected with moolahdara chakra...when you want to turn on an electric lamp, you do not have to touch the lamp itself, you operate it by means of a switch on the wall. Likewise, whem you want to awaken the brain, you cannot deal with it directly, you have to flip the switches which are located in the chakras. Mooladhara is only a manipulating center or switch, like the other chakras, but it happens to be easier to operate this switch."

-Kundalini Tantra, Swami satyananda Saraswati

Sunday, January 3, 2010

To scratch or not to scratch?"...

i am convinced there is only 1 mosquito, that appears in many places in multitudinous forms. every time you kill one it is reborn again within 30 seconds.
especially the one who buzzes in your ears at night time when you are trying to sleep.

my feet are on fire from the network of red bites...i try not to scratch the itch.

before i left for india, i was listening to a cd of a a buddhist teacher, pema chodron. she said meditation is like learning not to scratch the itch. we all have thought patterns that are incredibly uncomfortable, fear, anxiety, anger, sadness. we get agitated and want to scratch them, to react. instead, in meditation, we learn to sit still and witness the thought forms, to patiently observe the discomfort.

ah, there it is.
the burning itch of my feet.
hello burning itch.
i see you are there.
i feel you.
i choose not to scratch you because it will only agitate me more.
ah hello again.
more burning itching of my feet.
i see you again.
i feel you again.
i choose not to scratch you again.
and so on...

if meditation has taught me anything, it's that nothing lasts forver.
not the pleasurable nor the painful
they come in waves
these mosquito bites will disappear in a few days.
and even now i forget about them when i eat something delicious or become absorbed in conversation.

the zen of mosquito bites?
the buddha nature of mosquito bites?
to itch or not to itch, that is the question?

freedom, fornication and the bondage of love

i was talking to a woman yesterday, she came to see guruji because she is married and had a lover outside her marriage. life is complicated. who is free of sin? what is sin? a state of mind we are living in or the karmic ripples of our choices? i live in a glass house. i relax my hand and set down my stone. no broken windows today.

I was reminded of a parable from the New Testament Bible:

As Jesus approached the temple, he was met by a group of the hired agents of the Sanhedrin who were dragging a woman along with them. As they came near, the spokesman said: "Master, this woman was taken in adultery -- in the very act. Now, the law of Moses commands that we should stone such a woman. What do you say should be done with her?"

Jesus knew the men who had brought her, they were politicians and he knew it was a trap set for him. He also knew her husband was an unkind man who cheated many people. He took a stick and silently wrote something in the dirt before her husband. He quickly left. He wrote something in the dirt in front of her accusers, and they too left.
Jesus said: "Woman, where are your accusers? did no man remain to stone you?" And the woman, lifting up her eyes, answered, "No man, Lord." And then said Jesus: "I know about you; neither do I condemn you. Go your way in peace."

this woman who came yesterday is a good woman who wanted to taste more in life. this is hard on her husband. I admire them for trying to find a solution beyond name calling. They have two children. It would be an extroardinary relationship that could hold so much.

She had been practicing tantra.
many people say tantra is dangerous because it opens up the shadow of our sexuality.
most of us hide our shadows. what to do when they are loosed, illuminated? most of us keep a tight reign on our desires...many "moral" people satisfy sensual desires through food and drink or other means. what to do when directly confronted by it? what to do when it is not true that you only want to know one person carnally?
what to do when your tantra practice begins to unravel you?
you could hide behind the "spiritual" aspect of your practice to defend yourself. you could say you only did it for spiritual awakening. but is that true? isn't there a human part that was lustful? is it wrong to follow desire and passion? must we always make more light and shadow in our spiritual practices too?
there is a truth of nature that does not take into account man's a volcano that kills men, woman, children, good and evil alike. the sun shines on saint and sinner equally.
there is a deep, primal desire to rub bodies together to create friction and fire that is in itself a song in worship of life. of course there are consequences...there is pregnancy, disease and there is betrayal in relationships.

do we practice for the sake of practice? or do we practice to change ourselves?
what happens if we begin to change and that threatens to change our whole lives?
we are responsible for our own free will, there is no escaping this.
we must find the balance between freedom and discipline.
they hoped guruji could give them answers. he did not, how could he?
he said that since he married them, they are both his children and he does not want to see his children breaking apart. he told them to find the balance and figure it out. strong medicine.
he told them to focus on their friendship. maybe marriage creates too much rigidity, think of a living friendship that is flexible.
what does it mean to be married? to be a family? can we extend these definitions?
find the balance. no one can give the answers, the answers must be found by living, making mistakes, trying a again. maybe we know ourselves a little better each time we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off.

will i be a saint?

4:30am in india.
already i am sweating.
i have not slept in 28 hours.
i have not showered in 2 days.

chennai is a city that reminds me of a stately older woman, big trees line the streets. i feel like a barefoot bride under a leafy canopy walking towards my wedding procession with myself. the horns of the rickshaws are my band. i am a bride drunk on tiredness, travel, time zones, drunk on the secret knowledge of myself. some call this yoga, meditation, prayer, ceremony. it is fun to drink from the spring of myself.
"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you."
-F Scott Fitzgerald

4:30am in chennai and i woke up and laid in bed, i felt my teacher awake in the house i am staying at. i went downstairs to sit with him. we are both typing on our laptops...ah, modern salvation. i wonder if they used to do this writing on betel leaves?

what makes a saint?
someone who sits in white and asks for nothing for themselves? who has been mysteriously neutered of their yoni or lingam, their sex drive, their genitalia? are saints allowed to have genitalia? or is that an obscene thought? i must not be a saint.

is a saint someone who burns for truth? if that is enough, wouldn't allen ginsberg and all the filthy beats be saints?

"angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-ery of night
who bared their brains to heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall" -ginsberg, howl
the beats too travelled to India, decades before me. poet-sufferers who dropped the condensed pearls of their ecstatic/painful search for god out their mouths and fingers in profane and gorgeous howling poetry? does the artist wear the mask of ecstatic torment to bleed our dreams for us? it is easy to suckle on their words and make saints or fools out of them.

if i feed hungry children will i be a saint?

if i remain monogomous and make love to one man will i be a saint?

if i sit cross legged wrapped in orange cotton, ass spread on the sidewalk lost in trance, will i be a saint?

if i sacrifice everything i have for what i love will i be a saint?

or will i only be a saint if you feel peace when you are beside me...or if you feel your heart set to burning when you sit beside me... Sri Sarada Devi
"when i die, bury me standing up because i have spent my whole life on my knees" -gypsy saying

isn't it enough to be a woman, to have born a child, to have walked on my knees begging for grace, mercy, redemption...i am a redemption junkie. my life a pilgrimage of laughter and tears on my knees...following the path of my heart, that trickster song. embracing the profanity of loving my son, many men, a few women...trying to love my parents in a way that doesn't make me mad...trying to accept that the world is full of suffering, yes as the buddhist say, but it is equally true it is full of pleasure as the tantrics say...trying to accept that sorrow is the left hand joy, and that both hands open the heart.

i will grow old and lose beauty
i will grow old and die
in this lifetime i will bear the loss of those i love, through inevitable death, through trials and growth and the endless hand of time wiping the sands of space free again and again. inevitably. mercilessly.
i have a vision for you. i have a prophesy for you.
you too will die, you too will grow old (probably) and you too will feel the longing of love. so make the most of this one uncertain life. try to stay awake. the hindus say that the world is the dream of blue god vishnu, who is floating down the river of time reclining on a chaise lounge being fed grapes by his woman. the universe is the lotus blossoming from his navel. god is dreaming this world. so try to stay awake for the sacred profanity of the mystery.