Monday, May 17, 2010

bring it with you

I've been going though a rebellious period the past few weeks.  Staying up late reading, doing a skimpy sadhana, eating some fish,---the byproduct has been me growing increasingly angry and frustrated....with myself.   The more I purposefully do things to throw my yogi-ness out of balance, the more I KNOW what I want to be doing.  Beneath the rebellion lies the truth--the anger at myself for not doing what deep down I know I want to be doing.  But since I have something holding me back, my soul goes "ok, we'll change some other stuff around to stir up that inner fire to get you moving".  So there you have it, a coup d'etat in my own mind!

Today I was alternating between states of sudden exhaustion and enraged frustration at work.  So when I got home, I decided to take a nice walk in the rain.  It was 'Seattle-ing', spraying down a delicate veil of mist (reminded me of Ireland..ahh...).  I was chanting and starting to feel better when I got the urge to walk in the direction of this one shop, even though I knew it was closed on Mondays.  I found myself at one of the small parks neighboring the Potomac here in Old town.  This one was very small, and on the left there was a row of closely packed trees whose branches made a lovely canopy.  I went to stand under them and looked up at the ceiling of green, shading me from the falling mist-turned-drizzle.  I don't know what moved me to do so, but I put both of my hands on the trunk of the tree and just stood there, feeling the presence of the tree and how it affected me. 

I've always felt very protected and calm in the presence of trees.  As a child, I was always outside in the summer, climbing trees and making tree-forts.  One of the best was in this huge pine tree in our backyard--my mother can attest to this, as every night she would make me take off all my sap-laden clothes on the deck, then instruct me to run inside to the bathtub and not touch anything on my way.  I could never quite scrub off all the sap and Mom would give up too since I'd just be out there again the next day!

I was transported back to a special memory that has always stood out.  It was a late summer evening, and I was sitting in a tree in our front yard.  I didn't know it at the time, but I was definitely meditating.  I remember feeling so peaceful, looking out on the yard and the neighbors' hourses, and I got a sense that all was well everywhere,  and there was nothing to worry about.  I realized that God was wherever I was and you could converse with God whenever you wanted.  And I found that experience of talking to him/her/it that night in the tree.  Then my mom called me in for dinner, and with a sad reluctance I climbed down.  Today when I was standing with this other tree in the rain, a voice told me to stay with that feeling, that moment where I had to climb out of my tree. When I left, I felt a profound loneliness to be separated from that place where I experienced God, that inner peace and contentment.   I was young, maybe 8 or so, and I had the feeling that someone needed to vindicate what I'd experienced, that it wasn't really real.  So I buried it externally, but internally I've always come back to it for peace and reassurance.

As this was processing in my mind, I felt tension disperse in my hips and legs and disperse into the ground, growing roots like the tree in front of me.  Trees give stability, safety, a presence always available for people to lean on or use for shelter.  I heard "bring the tree with you" - take that strong trunk, put it in your heart, and when you need to be reminded of peace or to feel grounded, lean on that within your being.   As a nice physical example of how to do this, a very loud horn from a ship not but 100 feet away let out a big ol' bone-jarring howl.  My body jumped and torso turned to look in the direction of the noise, while my hands and arms instinctively bored down against the tree for support.   I noticed that when this happened, the act of pressing with my hands into the tree kept my heart open.  Usually, with shocks to the nervous system like that, I feel a pressure and a tightening in my chest.  What a fun demonstration of the benefits to human-tree partnership!!

In our hearts, we can re-create whatever place that serves as our sanctuary and always be in there.  We don't have to leave it to go to dinner!  Eat dinner there! Sleep there!  Its a state of being and relating to things, rather than a physical place. 

...although its a beautiful blessing to have a place where the outer can reflect the inner, and for this, I am happy for trees :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Coming out

As I tied my turban today, I felt like I was going into battle.  I slicked my hair back neatly into my rishi knot, covered it up snugly with a spare chunni.  Curled my first turban layer, then the second snugly around my head...maybe a little too snug today.  Took my stretchy chunni, which I had soaked and washed in bleach last night, and wound my head its the final layer of whiteness, all while reciting "Gobinday, Mukanday, Udaaray, Apaaray, Hariung, Kariung, Nirnaamay, Akaamay". 

No, I wasn't about to go take up arms---I was going to sing a concert!  But this was my first professional concert where I was wearing my turban.  Having been wearing my turban most of the time for the last year, I had recently made the decision to wear it all the time---the only time I haven't been was when singing.  

I am constantly awestruck at how the universe puts things in your path to support you.  Driving to the church I started to get nervous again, and as I did, I passed a parked car with a humongous Adi Shakti decal in the rear window.  Then after the concert, I had a women come up to me and ask "Are you a 3HO Sikh?"  It turned out that this woman's daughter and grandchildren were in the dharma for a long time.  There were other interesting exchanges I had with some of the concert-goers, and felt very grateful to my turban.  Its interesting, because I think my turban actually helps me sing better-- emotionally, I feel protected and contained, and physically, it reminds me to keep my head up! 

Becoming a Sikh today is a different landscape than it was 40 years ago. It seems many of the 'first generation' of 3HO Sikhs experienced an "immersion conversion": living in an ashram, working in a yogi business, being with other sikh/yogis most of the time.  There just aren't those kind of opportunities now for people who are entering this path now.  Granted there are some, but for the most part,  this transformation happens in the context of our established lives.  Sometimes there's a sangat close by, sometimes the closest one is a 6 hr drive.  So what I've been thinking is...go out and make the sangat.   Interact with those that are in your life, do the things you have always been doing, and bring that light, confidence and spirit of the Guru to all situations.  Its not just Sikhs who have a monopoly on Khalsa--- I am frequently inspired and uplifted many Christians, Jews, Agnostics and Atheists on a daily basis.  My heart opens for the opportunity to connect and share with people from different backgrounds.  I have a hope for myself that living as a Sikh, singing and just being, I'll be able to bridge different worlds and live the truth that we are all one.