Falling Off the Ground

Last night I took myself outside after two failed attempts to nap. (I’ve been battling a head cold for about three days already. It’s been quite the roller coaster and I’ve been craving rest.) It was around dusk and I decided to untangle some of my Morning Glory vines and encourage them in new, specific directions. After that was done, with my laptop at our sun table I decided to do anything online except school work. This made me feel lonely, so I texted The Best and reminded him that he hadn’t left his room since coming home and that his nicotine levels were surely running low. (“Don’t you have to come outside for a breath of fresh air soon?”) Sure enough, he had joined me outside within 5 minutes. A short while later I found myself out at our sidewalk, sitting and staring at the dark sky. I watched the stars while suspended in Navasana (boat pose). This led to sprawling out on the sidewalk – which actually is a much better way to watch the stars.

While I was still really young my father taught me how to see the stars move. It’s one of my all-time favorite things to have learned in this life so far and having been given that wisdom from him makes it even more precious to me. After he’s gone I’ll continue watching stars move with him. The best and I also saw UFOs, no joke.

Resting later in Shavasana (still on the sidewalk), I experienced something cool. I suddenly felt like I was on a ceiling and was looking at a celestial floor. Of course, humans aren’t meant to relax on ceilings, so the celestial floor felt like the better, more natural place to be. I sensed within me a very subtle yearning leave the ceiling for the floor. I found myself practically craving a launch from the pavement I relaxed on and expand into the speckled indigo Everything I saw before me. Usually closing my eyes helps encourage these kinds of expansive experiences, but this time it proved only to limit it – so I kept them open, without blinking, for as long as I was able. In his own way, I think The Best (who joined me on the sidewalk after his nicotine dose) was probably also having a similar experience because he started a conversation about gravity and being thrown out into space.

I’ve said before that when this life is finished and I’m done with this body, I will refuse additional bodily cycles and instead adopt the myriad forms of this planet’s weather system(s). I now suspect that this will not suffice. Even being a part of Earth’s weather is likely to feel too much like still being stuck to the ceiling. Rejoining the aforementioned floor will be far better and I will do it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Eusebeia

"Dharma"

“Dharma”

In a recent post I dissected some guidelines for speech. You would have read about some of my experiences growing up, the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” and another saying / quote that also advises on things to be considered before opening one’s mouth. Friday of this past week presented me with an opportunity to really practice what I had preached and, as I mentioned on my Facebook page, the whole thing left me feeling like both Krishna and Arjuna – two quite different roles!

For anyone unfamiliar, Hindus revere a text known as the Bhagavad Gita. It’s essentially a snip-it of a larger text that I wont go into here, but the entire Gita is a war time conversation between Arjuna (who would modernly be considered a very high-ranking military officer) and his chauffer on the battle field, who happens to also be both his cousin and God in disguise. The scene is of an immense battlefield with opposing armies on either side, ready to go. Arjuna asks Krishna to drive him out to the middle of the field so he can see the opposing army. Once there, Arjuna balks – in fact, he does more than just balk. He crumbles into a weak and sobbing mess of a human. The reason for this is that he sees on the opposing army’s side his own relatives and teachers and many people he cares for deeply. He can’t go through with his duty. This is where Krishna/God comes in. Krishna spends the duration of the Gita explaining to Arjuna what it means to be a good human – a truly daunting task for anyone and filled with many hard choices and actions that really are necessary in life. Krishna offers perspective for Arjuna as his mind is scared and his emotions are whirling around uncontrolled. In a very fancy and cosmic revelation experience, Krishna literally shows Arjuna the bigger picture – the WHOLE bigger picture. The guidance and the revelation are enough to knock some sense into the up-till-then underdeveloped Arjuna.

Now fast forward thousands of years and you’ll find me in my office dealing with a number of coworkers who all feel very torn about our shared situation. That situation is one in which our Team Lead is quite abusive within the work environment. This has been going on for quite some time, in fact far too long. The torn feelings can be divided onto one hand where this form of workplace violence has become intolerable and the other hand where the one being abusive happens to also be a fairly superior go-to person for just about anything that the department faces. In the past, a few complaints have been filed but the only discernible results of those complaints is that this Lead finds out who made the complaint and then makes their work life even more of a hell than it was before. Eventually, people would say enough is enough and attempt transferring to another department or would leave the company altogether, with nothing ever improving. Around one year ago the department saw a mass exodus of sorts. It happened somewhat gradually over a few months, but when it was finished all but two or three employees had left the department, with the Lead being one of the two or three staying put. Myself and a handful of others were the new life that grew from those ashes and have since become the face of the department. All change in personnel aside, the abuse is still well-known, well-documented, and quite visible.

So where does all this about feeling like Krishna and Arjuna come into play?

Incrementally, I found myself becoming the sage of the department. I’ve never really been picked on by this Lead, which seems to put me in a position of favor and makes others wonder how I managed that. Additionally, I have had the balls to establish a fairly direct and honest relationship with the Lead, so that when her bullshit starts aiming itself at me I bring attention to it and put a stop to it before I am battered or bruised. This actually has forged a slightly different and more even relationship with the abusive Lead, the result of which has been that I’ve been privy to some of her behind-the-scenes language and behavior, something most don’t see and which I shouldn’t have to see. And then there are the myriad casual discussions I’ve had with my peers wherefrom they have come to recognize me as a local oracle (you know what I mean). So, in a way, I’m the Krishna of my department. As this form of workplace violence has shown its face, and people came to me for guidance, I counseled them on doing the right thing as defined by their particular station in life / work. In each of these conversations, I encouraged my peers that they MUST do what they SHOULD do. I try to help them through the fear of retaliation. I point them to the immense value found in their own personhood and as an asset to the company. Ultimately, I have counseled each of these people to make sure they’re aware of what their personal dharma is, as a person and an employee, and to not be afraid to fully act on that awareness. During these moments their behavior is very “Arjunish.”

On the flip side, things really came to a boil this past week with one employee in particular. He really was at his wit’s end and very quickly running out of patience for the abuse. He and I chatted about this at length, as we had done many times in the past. He did some research on workplace violence and even emailed his father for advice. His father’s words mirrored what I had already told him and he made the decision to take his concerns to our manager / HR (and risk becoming an even bigger punching bag in the process). He had but one request: that I accompany him to this meeting. Suddenly, I’m facing the other side of this coin, where I’m now Arjuna.

Like Arjuna facing his peers and family and teachers on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, I knew what I stood to lose by going on record against this Lead. And yet, my decision was crystal clear: I knew what was right for me to do and I knew avoiding my dharma in this context would be irresponsible, immature, and cowardly.

So this peer of mine secured a meeting with our manager and as nervous and unsettled about the whole thing as I was (as we both were), I honored his request to accompany him. I played my role to the best of my ability, well aware of how uncomfortable it all was, and very well aware that our words might be the straw that “breaks the camel’s back” so far as the Lead’s employment is concerned. (By her own admission, she’s already on final written warning. And by her own admission if “one more person goes to HR” on her then she’ll be fired.) In our meeting we did exactly what we came to the meeting to do. There were moments when it flowed more smoothly than others, but the whole thing was unfortunate and necessary. At the end of it, our manager assured us that while he would need a few days to get the ball rolling, “changes would be made” and that our incident report would not go unnoticed. He also advised us that probably next week sometime HR would likely want to speak to both of us about this.

So there you have it in just about 1400 words. My “Krishnarjuna” experience. The lesson here is that regardless of how uncomfortable it might make me, regardless of the resultant loss I might experience and the comfort I would forfeit, regardless of the betrayal the Lead would associate with my role in all this, regardless of everything, the only responsible choice was for me to stand and speak for truth and for dharma on its various levels (swadharma, ashrama dharma, varna dharma and maybe even Rta). I hope I’m strong enough to face the task the next time it presents itself and I pray each of us is able to do this whenever it’s our turn to do so.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Toot

Who managed to survive childhood without a parent or teacher advising that “if you have nothing nice to say, then you should say nothing at all”? I’m not one such person. In fact, if my memory serves me then I can recall not being allowed to watch the Rosanne show because they said, “shut up” to each other instead of “please be quiet” which we were very strong “encouraged” to say. Bart Simpson and the Beavis and Butthead show were two others prohibited because of a combo of language and disrespect. We weren’t really allowed to say “fart” and instead were told to use the more polite “toot.” And I have a very vivid memory of a family vacation scene: I’m in the back of our van with my brothers, and I’m eating a banana when my brother Jeremy flops around with a sleeping bag and in the process swipes my half-eaten banana. Naturally, this forces me to say something to Jeremy about him getting fuzz on “my freakin’ banana.” The (very fast and VERY heated) response to this from my mom was, “Joshua! We don’t say FREAKIN! That’s about as close to FUCK as you can get!!!” I’m sure you can see now how very familiar we would have been with the old saying about keeping your mouth shut if nothing good can be said with it. I bet I was half way through my 20s before I said even a minor swear word in front of my parents.

But is it really okay and “true” for us to teach people to keep quiet if there’s nothing nice to say? I mean, what exactly – what really – does that instill in someone? I have immense and deep honor, respect, and gratitude for the humans serving as my parents in this life (who are, btw, exemplary grihastas!), but I still remain unconvinced of any truth in that old saying.

There’s another “saying” that’s been circulated in more recent years that sticks with me a bit more than the whole “if you don have anything nice to say” piece. There are variations on it to be found everywhere and a quick internet search will attribute the saying to sources as varied a the Buddha, an Arab proverb, and Bernard Meltzer. Despite its different versions, a basic form of the supposed quote goes something like, “Before you speak ask yourself: Is it necessary? Is it kind? Is it true?”

I think this is a much wiser approach to personal language than telling someone to remain silent if nothing nice can be said. However, even this new advice brings glitches of its own. After all, how can one sort out whether something is kind when something as relative as “kindness” can be expressed and defined in immensely different ways. The question of relativity applies to the other two parts as well, although in differing degrees and certainly the other two are somewhat less relative.

But let’s stick with these three as guidelines and look more into each.

1) Truth. This one can definitely be tricky. In Hinduism we tell a short story about how limited each’s experience of truth is. The story is of three blind people trying to describe an elephant. One, examining the elephant’s legs, describes it accordingly – thinking an elephant is something tall and thick and strong and shaped like a tree. Another, feeling the ears, describes the elephant thusly and understands the ears to be the elephant’s entire truth. The third blind person does the same with yet another part of the elephant’s body. None is wrong, however none is describing reality as completely as he imagines he is. Similarly, in our language we often say with certainty what we know to be true – which isn’t bad. The catch is to be aware enough that you understand that what you’re seeing as true may well be an incomplete truth. With that in mind, and if we’re to use “is it true” as a filter for our words, when could anyone ever say anything certainly? To be as “true” as we really need to be, we would need to present some kind of disclaimer to everyone we spoke with: This is as true as I am able to currently see, but may not represent the entire picture. Additionally, like the three blind people able to see only part of the truth, we would need to constantly seek ways to transcend what we know to be true and discern the truth as experienced by the person we’re speaking to. This is big. Truth is definitely One, but experiencing it is definitely VERY relative. And so for this one, I think most people would struggle. It’s surely a fantastic thing to gauge your words against, but you either need to offer your disclaimer or you need to be developmentally advanced enough to recognize your own limitations or to perceive truth according to another.

2) Kindness. This one is my least favorite. I think because regardless of the context it’s the most fluid of the three. Kindness, in every imaginable context, is crazily broad. Things like helping someone across the road, offering a compliment on someone’s haircut, and paying for the car behind you in the drive-thru lane are all pretty agreeable faces of kindness. For some, however, something like a mercy killing might also an act of kindness. The ego in each of us is unlikely to agree or even offer much space for the possibility that something uncomfortable to our own self could ever be kind, but I’m telling you the world is a very big and diverse place. They say, “truth might hurt but lies never heal.” Sometimes the nicest thing to say might also be the thing that will sting the most right now. Sometimes the kindest thing to say is whatever might be needed to jolt someone out of an egoic fog – assuming you’re in a position that qualifies you to do that kind of thing. To generalize, this is a good gauge of your words because at a minimum it still requires you to at least guess about the potential perception your words might be met with, and might also cause you to question your motive behind what you think you want to say.

3) Necessity. I’m ending with this one because it’s my favorite. Is it necessary? I can tell you based on my own life’s experience that this alone is just about enough to weigh your words against. You practically don’t even need the others. After all, regardless of whether something to be said is either true or kind, or neither, if it isn’t necessary then it might as well be left unsaid because it’s not really serving any good purpose. Like the others, however, this one isn’t without its own catches. For instance, how do you judge the necessity of verbally expressing thoughts or feelings? Often our actions suffice in that arena so that right there diminishes the necessity of saying many things. And when it comes to knowledge share, why not trust that the person you might share with will have their own experiences to teach them – possibly in a way more potent than any word you might utter? And then there’s the question of “picking your battles,” right? Sometimes it’s just not necessary to engage something verbally because you simply have bigger fish to fry, so to speak. This ultimately comes down to a personal judgment call, which technically still makes it pretty broad, but I do feel this one is significantly more cut and dry than the other two – and the more developed a person is on the inside, the easier it will be for them to deem things actually necessary or unnecessary to verbalize. And maybe that’s why I enjoy this one the most? It seems like the responsibility really and truly rests on the speaker. Which is what this is all really about, anyway. This one alone seems to capture the essence of this entire Spiel as well as others like, “If you have nothing nice to say…”

So there you have it. Many times we open our mouth when we oughtn’t, but it’s not always best to keep your mouth shut. Sometimes saying the toughest things is the most necessary, truest, and kindest thing to do and it comes with a heavy and awesome personal responsibility. It rarely hurts to say, “Be quiet please,” but so many times Life calls us to simply say, “Shut up!”

I hope you can always know not only what to say when, but also why you’re saying it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Three Green Balloons

Yesterday (I think) was the birthday of a little boy who left far too early in life. His mother, Betsy Baker, is someone I went to high school with and have stayed in touch with through Facebook. A short time ago she invited myself and others to partake in an event she called, “Dexter’s Celebration.” She said we could take this entire weekend to celebrate wherever we are and she encouraged us to release balloons in his memory and to celebrate his life and his one year birthday.

Just left PartyCity with 3 Green Balloons for Dexter's Celebration!

Just left PartyCity with 3 Green Balloons for Dexter’s Celebration!

The weather cleared up a bit just for Dexter!

The weather cleared up a bit just for Dexter!

3 Green Balloons: Wholeness, Love, Release, Renunciation, Anahata Chakra, & Completion.

3 Green Balloons: Wholeness, Love, Release, Renunciation, Anahata Chakra, & Completion.

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Up, Up, & Away!

Up, Up, & Away!

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The video in this post is my very amateur attempt at communicating some of my thoughts and feelings regarding parenting and how important I think it is to be a parent whenever you’re presented with the opportunity.

For some of you this will be the first time you’ve heard my voice. As an aside, there was just a chat on Facebook about whether I sound feminine enough to be mistakenly called ma’am, or not. I’ll allow you to be the judge. The critical nature of my mind is telling me to tell you that you’ll notice that I do strange things with my lips/face and say “Umm” something like 60 times throughout the video. Neither are super typical of me, however both are occasionally symptomatic of me struggling to find the right words – something I could have spared you had I written out what I intended to say. I didn’t do that because I didn’t want it all to feel scripted. And now you’ll just have to do your best to not be distracted by these things. Sorry.

So here you have it: In honor of parent/child relationships everywhere and in all their forms, and in Dexter’s sweet memory.

Twameva mata cha pita twameva, (You are truly my mother and truly my father)
Twameva bandhush-cha sakha twameva, (you are truly my relative and truly my friend)
Twameva vidya dravinam twameva, (You are truly my knowledge and truly my wealth)
Twameva sarvam mama deva deva! (You are truly my all, my God of gods)

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Manic Spirituality

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

I’ve been reading through “Call of Spirituality, Vol I & II” for a few weeks and am getting into some really good stuff lately. One thing that struck me while reading last night is something Chariji said in regard to direct and powerful experiences of what humans call God.

He had earlier mentioned the power of God and gurus and how one person might have an experience that another does not, and usually the one who didn’t share the experience will say that the experience of the one who did is somehow less or invalid because it wasn’t confirmed by anyone other than the one who had it. Chariji explains that this kind of “judgement” is really useless and tells us that everyone has different experiences. He goes on….

“Now it is impossible for everyone to get the opportunity to experience him in a dream saying he is the Master. For that, one has to be either an atheist like the mythological figure Hiranyakashipu or Ravana, or else be a perfect devotee like Arjuna. It is not available to anyone in the interim stage. God reveals himself as God only to a perfect atheist or a perfect devotee. Those who are in between these extremes need to try to get it by enterinig the path of spirituality, exploring by means of questions and answers by practice. Arjuna asks Krishna, “How can I reach you?” and Krishna answers, “Through practice.” There is no way except that of spiritual practice.

I love this.

For one, I think I can absolutely agree with guruji when he says that God only shows Itself to those who have perfected their spirituality or to those who have zero spirituality. It just makes sense. When you’ve yet to consciously start the journey, you might need a jolting experience to help things be kick-started. And if you’re someone who’s been traveling the path in such a way that your spirituality is mature, then this kind of experience is not only a natural part of that maturation, but could also perhaps be considered a reward of sorts (although, as the path is traveled the so-called reward becomes less and less the focus.) For those of us who are in the “interim” stage(s), there remains work to be done. We’re apparently awake enough not to need being jolted into greater awareness, yet not awake enough to maintain prolongation of the direct experience we seek – Union.

Secondly, it’s great that guruji is able to so succinctly express a major element of Sahaj Marg which is 1) The absolute necessity of personal responsibility for one’s own development as a human and as a spiritual being, and 2) The absolute necessity and truth found in what we here in the west are talking about when we say, “Shit or get off the pot.” Krishna confirms and affirms as much in his discussion with Arjuna throughout the Bhagavad Gita.

I personally have no quams with atheism. Similarly, I take no issue with sainthood. There are cetainly days when either or both may apply to myself. The lesson here for me is to do. Always do. Either be what I am, or strive tirelessly for what I will become. Hangin’ around won’t get you far.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Tandav, Tandav, Tandav

I’ve written before about the dance of the Supreme, ofen called Shiva’s Tandava. It’s the dance of life that enables everything to come from nothing (starting with the so-called Big Bang and even before that), it’s this same cosmic dance that sustains everything with life-protecting energy and motion, and finally this dance is responsible for recycling and the transcendence everything must undergo from the sub-atomic level right up through universal pralaya. And this dance is very likely to soon release my birth mother from her “mortal coil.”

She has a history of crying wolf and if she isn’t doing that then she’s lying through her teeth about whatever she may. Often she does both at the same time. Consequently, no one knows what to believe regardless of what she might say about anything. When you frame anything within that context, it’s understandably difficult to know the truth of any matter – particularly so with regard to her health. However, I began finding out the truth Thursday when she was admitted to one of the ICUs of a local hospital.

Her heart has severe myopathy. For the last 7+ years she’s been saved by her defibrillator – the lifespan of which is quickly expiring. She’s had a few other options on the table like heart transplant and L-VAD, however a recent battle with lung cancer (which she’s still not in the clear from yet) and her own long-term delinquency as a cardiology patient have pretty well screwed her out of those and any other options.

Thursday night, the whole of Friday, and much of this morning meant my staying at the hospital speaking to every specialist who came within reach. I was able to not only put much of the picture together but there were a number of instances where health care providers were very clear with all of us about the gravity of all this and how literally hopeless her case is. She’s in obvious denial, but not the unfortunate kind. With her it’s a pungently ignorant kind where she simultaneously continues seeking care and advice from her specialists while prattling on about how they “don’t know shit” about her. Thursday actually started with a series of visits from many non-clinical hospital personnel starting with Catholic communion given at her bedside, a visit from another minister, mention of the availability of a Catholic priest since we’re “on the Catholic list,” two practitioners involved with palliative care, and a social worker, among others.

As her firstborn and the most responsible of her children, my stay at the hospital meant being designated as her legal “voice” in the (inevitable) event that she is unable to speak for herself, as well as being the one with the most drive to make sure that her wishes are documented well so that when everything hits the fan, we can be very clear about her wishes in regard to the amount of resuscitation she would want/not want, the handling of her body after she leaves, what to do with her possessions, etc… Additionally, I’ve been the primary method of communication and peace keeping relay between my numerous siblings and any family who insist on being kept in the loop with any goings on. It’s been exhausting and will likely continue to be a drain not only of my PTO but also of my heart.

Probably the worst is ahead, as her heart continues to weaken and she continues to be the most ignorant and ego-centered person I’ve known. The physicians mentioned many times that although they give their best advice to their patients, they don’t have any crystal ball and can’t concretely predict the future. This has inspired what is the surest false hope I’ve seen in simple-minded people, the result of which has meant that my birth mother and her faux-fiancé are planning to pray all of this away. They’re literally visiting a minimum of three churches on Mother’s Day for the “laying on of hands” and petitioning of the Lord for a healing. An interesting change from her traditionally Catholic background – all of this is actually the faux-fiancé’s idea.

Tomorrow I’m going to wake up as close to dawn as my exhausted self will permit and meditate on the rising sun. Then I’m going to buy plants to plant and love throughout the summer around my property. Sometime tomorrow I’ll return to meditation, start violin practice, go for a run, and may eventually go purchase groceries.

My mother’s team of specialist claims to have no crystal ball. I do, though, and I keep it polished. The vision is bleak. In addition to the things I mention I’ll be doing tomorrow I’ll also be placing a cover over my own crystal ball and refuse to glance again until Nature mandates it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Heavy as Clay

whirling-dervish-show

You never know what experience meditation might bring in Sahaj Marg. Many times I come out of meditation or leave a sitting thinking, “Holy cow!” We’re encouraged to journal, and I often log these experiences in my journal – as best I am able, given that the right words often escape me. Still, occassionally I am able to express these experiences in words that seem at least mostly adequate. This is rare, though.

Recently, and more than once, I have experienced something that may well be called a vision, although that term doesn’t seem to fit as neatly as it should because I’m not seeing anything in my mind’s eye so much as “seeing”” through a type of feeling.

I recall from my early years while I was a Christian stories about the first human being created from clay. Anyone who’s worked with clay before can attest to the general heaviness of the material. Until a few meditative experiences recently, I’d never before felt so very…. made of clay.

In Sahaj Marg, one will find much emphasis on subtlety and subtleness. Our practices and texts are filled with subtlety and emphasis on it. During our meditative efforts, it’s not unusual to experience increased subtleness from within where the inner landscapes are being tended. Despite knowing this, in something like 3 or 4 years of following the Sahaj Marg (mostly on, with a little off) these recent experiences are relatively new to me. I’ve almost always known and understood the physical body to be gross and dense (mind you, in a purely physical sense the body is actually mostly a grouping of water and empty space, but the perspective shifts when we consider the nature of physical forms in relation to the non-physical world and its experiences), but lately coming out of meditation has been fairly…. bothersome and a time or two, almost painful. I “return” and sometimes think to myself, “Damn. I’m heavy!”

It’s not entirely unlike going to the gym or doing a workout at home and later feeling a little sore in the areas you worked out. All possible injury aside, that kind of pain is good and understood to be a sign of progress. I’m not sure what, if anything, this kind of meditative experience says about my progress spiritually and as a human person, but it feels encouraging. Surely one of the best aspects of this path is, in addition to these kinds of proofs, the encouragement Shri Guru offers motivates us to re-enter the world as the grihastas we are and to perform this dharma to the best grihasta ability.

As we’re now encased in the perfect weather of our Spring season, a season I find to be filled with balance (hot AND cold temps, rainy AND sunny days, etc…), it’s my wish for you that you should similarly find the balance perfect for you, both in this world and the Brighter World.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti