Winter Aum

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

I recently decided to take a break from school. Around this time a year ago I did the same. I’m thinking that, regardless of how long it takes me to finish, I’ll take a nice long break from school around the solstice each winter season. I’m finding that this kind of pause is really healing.

Last year I had only been at my current company for about 2 months when this time of the year came and I was about to have to really step up my performance – I was exiting the training period and was about to have to fly quite solo. Anyone who knows me, knows that if I receive a letter grade under the equivalent of something around 96%, I freak out, so I decided to step away from studies while my work demanded so much of me. Once that time had passed, I resumed my studies.

The time since then (almost a full year) has been a time of great growth. Professionally, I managed to impress my way out of a position I should have been stuck in for at least a year – in less than a year – and moved to a new department. THEN, within three months of that transition, I managed to find my way into further specialized usefulness. And so here we are, a year from my last break, and I’m entering another – for pretty much the same reasons.

This weekend will be a special one for me. Saturday is not only the winter solstice, but also this month’s Sankashti (tonight is the full moon). I plan to use this time to pull within – to retreat a bit. I’ve mentioned a couple times already that I’ve recently come upon some realizations that will mean some changes for me, and this will likely be an auspicious time to sort some of that out more.

I’m no longer spending my weekends working on folks’ heads at the spa. As of yesterday I don’t have to worry about school for a few months. Pretty much all of our Xmas shopping is done AND wrapped. Nobody’s in the hospital. It’s a nice, and fitting, time to just “chill” – and the perfect season to do so.

This winter break of mine (as of two consecutive years now) is something I think all should do to the best of their ability. It fits into the natural dance of things for this part of the world during this time of the year. Water is freezing. Trees have dropped their leaves. Animals are (mostly) hibernating. Humans would do well to follow suit as best we’re able.

Chill out. Withdrawl a bit. Go within and start (already, yes!) assessing the seeds of yourself that you want to survive the harsh winter and manifest in the spring.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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Sweet Dreams Are Made of These

hindu-man_1709177i

A bit over a week ago, at work, we somehow found ourselves in the middle of a debate about dreams. I’ll mention now that I’m actually quite good at interpreting dreams. To save my life, I still don’t know how we came to be talking about this, but we did and it left me with some uncomfortable feelings. That much, I’m still sorting out – at least until I decide I plain just don’t care. Details of parts of the conversation, though, I’d like to share – as well as my thoughts on suchery.

At some point in the chat, a coworker had mentioned that he read that most people dream in the third person. I’d say this is definitely true of my own experience with dreams. Mine have almost always been vivid, and almost invariably where the real me is more of an observer than anything – often watching myself play some role in the dream itself.

At another point, I mentioned that I almost never dream. Right away, people were quick to point out how wrong I am, since studies have shown that absolutely EVERYONE dreams EVERY night. When citing these studies, which these people actually knew almost nothing about, it was agreed upon by just about everyone – who had suddenly become sleep specialists – that I couldn’t possibly not dream. I tried explaining that I’m not saying I never dream. I tried explaining that my sleep is “different” and actually quite aware. I even went into some details about that, knowing already that my audience wouldn’t understand.

Here’s what’s bothersome about all of this: People don’t seem open to the idea that someone else’s experience might differ significantly from the bulk of everyone else’s.

At no time did I ever refute what “studies have shown.” (Well, maybe a little.) At no time did I ever say anyone was wrong. I did, however, indicate that I wasn’t a test subject with any of those studies (and so the results as they would apply to me might well vary) and that I’m fairly conscious while “asleep” and that this puts me in a different position from which I am (was) speaking. Responses I got literally ignored what I was saying. I received questions like, “Maybe you just don’t know that you’re dreaming” which I admitted could be the case except for the mostly-alert awareness I experience while I sleep.

It was actually quite frustrating – these people couldn’t see past what they had already digested in their minds. They really couldn’t. It’s like they were saying, “Apples, Apples, Apples” and I said, “What about Oranges?” and was met with, “No. Apples.” Although it wasn’t mentioned specifically, this factored, a bit, into a recent post wherein I self-jinxed. Things like this are making a change within me.

I can tell it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namah
Aum Shanti

The Mandala of Mandela

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

Every once in a while someone comes along and, whether in a subtle way or blatantly, things change. And then they leave.

I’m not one who’s very in touch with world events – at least, not usually until things are done and over. But I am often familiar with the feel of people, even if I’ve never met them. Sometimes, in life’s hustle and bustle, souls pass each other and seem to hardly connect and other times you hardly have to look at someone and you can connect with them, or “feel” them and in that way you can know them.

It’s a bit weird and more than a bit difficult to explain, I guess. But Nelson Mandela is one such person – soul – for me. Before his recent passing I knew not much about him. The basics only, really. But whenever he was in the news or if I came across photos of him, my spirit always smiled. Something about him, without actually knowing much of anything about him, “felt” good to me. I’ve read a few quotes attributed to him. I know in his lifespan he endured harshness and pain and challenge after challenge. But the goodness I know of him actually came from looking at him.

Goodness shapes you. Quite literally! Yes, it shapes your heart and your soul and your mind. And when it’s presence within you is nurtured and cultivated it shows not only in your actions, but in your physical self – your body. It’s like looking at someone’s face and noticing so-called smile lines. Of course, those lines are named thusly because the name references how and where they form. Still, they’re indicative on some superficial level, right? They indicate that the person bearing them smiles – likely a lot. Smiling often is also, in its own way, indicative.

When seeing Mandela, I also was often able to perceive some of the finer aspects of his personal mandala. So many traditions teach that one’s body is their temple. Health nuts use this reference frequently. Certainly, in the Hindu tradition as well as others, the temples we worship in are literally shaped in certain, precise, ways – the very architecture of which is meant to teach us and in its own way be highly indicative.

I can only hope that as my life is spent, people watching and those who look back on my own small life will be able to “feel” me when they see my unique mandala or photos of it and know some level of goodness. And it’s my hope, dear reader, as your life is spent that your own mandala shines as brightly as Mandela’s.

Aum Tryambakam Yajamahe – Sugandhim Pushti Vardhanam – Urvarukamiva Bandhanam – Mrtyor Mokshiyam Amrtat
Aum Shanti – Shanti – Shantihi!

Image take from Google Image search

Image take from Google Image search

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti – Shanti – Shantihi

Dankbar Fest

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

This year’s was certainly an interesting Thanksgiving. As the beloved put it, “The Jordan family never disappoints.” It’s true, I should admit.

There are lots of things I could be (and am!) thankful for. I have a “special someone” who apparently loves me. This is a treasure coveted by many people. I have a home that’s not only far from poverty level, but is even better than the homes of many I associate with. I have good health. I have a job that pays really well – which allows me to do for others just about as much as my heart wants me to do. I have adopted a religion that wholly suits me and continues to challenge me in ways I often am surprised by. I have so many memories and premonitions / precognitions that make me smile sweetly, for reasons I’ll never be able to explain. So very many things in my life are exactly as I would hope… I’m able to live a wonderful grhasta dharma that is interestingly … swami-ish. And of course, I have a family that is at times both bizarre and amazing.

Of all the things I could be (and am!) thankful for, and one thing I haven’t quite mentioned, I think I am almost surely the most thankful for my teachers and guides in this life. For these first thirty-three years of my current life, The Guru has taken a number of forms: my parents, my siblings, my extended family, my closest friends and many not-so-close friends, work associates, books, music, a few animals, most flowers, and some of my sadhanas.

All along, these many “inputs” have helped me develop into who I am today, but not in the way most people think. For most people, a statement like that means that “who I am today” is a reaction, or maybe a response. But when I use that phrase I intend something kind of different. My karmas seem to be so, that I came to this life with a relatively “even” demeanor. My parents would likely confirm as much and I swear there’s a newborn photo of me hanging on my grandmother’s wall that shows me making jnanamudra when I was only days old. I might be up one minute and down the next, as most humans are, but despite external appearances sometimes displayed I never really stray too far from center. It’s true. And so the aforementioned inputs have provided me with opportunity after opportunity to see my self and gauge what it experiences – and subsequently move from there.

It’s meant being industrious when I need to be – and when I don’t. It means learning how wrong I’ve been about some things in my past, and developing a thirst for “right knowledge” as I enter the present moment (and learn to reside there!). It’s meant knowing when I’m the student and when I need to teach. It’s meant knowing when I’m acting for myself and knowing when I act from the Eternal within me. All those things and so very much more.

I’m convinced that this has made all the difference in my current life – whether in comparison / contrast to the lives of others or as a standalone – and it’s a source immense gratitude for me.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Head-y Heart Games

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

A friend recently accused me of employing hindu head games. He didn’t mean the accusation literally and the context in which the accusation came is too removed from here to really go into. What he was getting at – from a superficial level – is that I push people into areas of thought they may not go on their own and that person’s unfamiliar territory often causes them to rethink a few things. Little by little, this gets the ball rolling in other directions and if the effort is maintained and followed through, it can bring wonderful changes and growth. However, this is something I think runs far deeper than even he realizes and I want to discuss, as briefly as I am able, what I think might be the very best of Hindu head games.

In many branches of Hinduism, we’re taught that our (little) self isn’t much to speak of although usually very problematic and that our (big) Self is our truest essence and is a sliver of God and is essentially the same from one person to the next. This bit of belief is actually of supreme importance.

There’s a story (which I’m certainly about to butcher) of a robber running into a monk on the roadside one day. The robber either attempts to rob the monk or asks the monk for a boon or something along those lines. By the end of their discussion the monk has convinced the robber that he can give him a mantra that will bring the robber more riches than the monk could ever hope to possess, let alone be robbed of. The mantra was, “Mara.” I now forget what the exact translation of that is supposed to be, but I think it was along the lines of “bitter” or “Devil” – certainly not anything positive, which apparently appealed to the robber’s sensibilities. And so off goes the robber, repeating his mantra, “Mara” hoping that he’ll gain riches from it. The monk, though, has tricked him. The thief starts off, “Mara, Mara, Mara, Mara…” and, as would happen naturally with speech the ending of one repetition is sewn into the beginning of the next and so the thief gradually and almost seamlessly goes from, “Mara, Mara, Mara…” to “Maramaramaramaramaramaramara…” which little by little is the same as “Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama…” And so, the thief has been subtly “tricked” by the monk into chanting one of God’s names and is thereby changed into a good person. End of story.

If there are Hindu head games, this story surely illustrates one – and one that is paralleled in the concept of self / Self.

Most people live and behave very selfishly – centered around the (little) self. This is the only identity some people ever realize in life. I need this. I need that. I am this. I am that. This feels good to me. That does not. However, most teachers (although not all) within the Hindu belief system encourage their students to go deeper and deeper into things like meditation, prayer, and jaapa. Sometimes these practices appeal to people who are seeking peace or happiness. “Look within” says the Hindu guru. And so, in an effort to serve what they perceive to be their self, people might start this – their motives at this point are almost invariably selfish (little). They’re entering these efforts perhaps to escape thoughts and energy that habitually cycle and recycle around and around within their minds. Like seeking the most comfy spot on the couch to chill out, these people enter sadhanas for the results the think they will get. And they may get them.

But there’s something else they’ll get, too. (Big) Self-realization. A major difference between this and the thief / monk story is that the monk pretty much tricked the thief. In other settings, his kind of guile isn’t needed or employed. Still, if we were to take a clear look at why many enter sadhanas of various sorts, we’d find a great many reasons that are (little) self-centered. And yet they enter, and with any luck they gain depth of experience here. And so then what happens?

They go deeper and deeper into their practice. And as they do, they gain an increasingly clearer picture of the (big) Self. As more time is spent gaining familiarity and transparent access to the (big) Self, the very definition of that Self is experienced and the seeker will eventually learn that This is common to all sentient things. As that new experience becomes increasingly familiar, a weird thing happens. You enter through the door of you, but as you learn of the Self and experience it, when you come back out you are using the door of that same Self – but in others. That is, you realize and experience That which is you to be identically true and paralleled in every living thing. This is the essence of a teaching of Jesus I referred to a couple posts ago where we’re told to love our neighbor as our self. It’s like diving into the swimming pool in your own back yard, but surfacing in the pool in your neighbor’s yard.

Some pools are above-ground and some are in-ground. Some are heated and others not. Some are circular, some are rectangles, and others are amorphously-shaped. Yet the water in your own pool (in each pool) is not different than the water in their pool (or any other).

Our neighbor, truly, IS our Self and I think this is the best Hindu mind game.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

My Rejected Soul

Self-Immolation

Self-Immolation

Many walks in life (namely many of the world religions) have views on why things happen. Why do bad things happen? Why do good things happen? Why do some people have easier lives than others? This could easily fall into a rant about karma, getting what you give, and all that jazz. I don’t want this post to go that direction really, although karma is an underlying factor in all of this. I do, however, want to discuss giving (I think). Karma deals primarily with getting what you have given. I want to focus on giving what you have gotten (I think), and the most disgusting hypocrisy I think I’ve ever known.

Back story: I’ve written about the best and how we have our adventures and how much these adventures mean to me. Well, my best occasionally has adventures that are entirely his own. Some of those adventures are best not had at all and unfortunately because my best choses to be just about the slowest learner EVER, some of those adventures are repeated. It’s because of this irresponsibility and his history of making really dumb decisions that my best is (for) now a felon. A few years ago he landed his self in the klink. It was tragic, truly. He didn’t know my number and so from jail he had to contact his ex who lived along the United States eastern shore – who in turn contacted my beloved through Facebook, who then told me the news. That year, I spent my entire Christmas budget meant for family and friends all on him just to bail is brilliant butt out. Not quite a week ago about the same thing happened, only this time he was able to call me directly – and this time the bail was 40% higher. Now he’s considered a repeat offender and our fear is that he’ll do hard time. That much remains to be seen. Without going into all the details, many of which can probably be assumed, his life will be very different going forward and so will mine and my beloved’s.

Something I find particularly disturbing in all this, though, is the reaction a mutual friend of ours has had toward my best’s predicament.

A little back story on her: She’s a recovering alcoholic, 12-steppin’ her way to a more wholesome life. This has been an on-going journey of hers for a few years already and she often speaks about responsibility and facing the consequences of one’s actions – doctrine she’s surely picked up from her 12-Step studies. She a wonderful person – one of my favorites, in fact. She’s been life-long Christian, and if I can be honest, of all the Christians I have known in my life (and living in the Midwest I’ve known too many!) she’s one of a very small group who doesn’t consistently make me cringe with her behavior. That is, until recently.

Whether it makes sense to you or not, the crux of Christianity is forgiveness. You pray to Jesus asking him for forgiveness of your sins (and the sins of your fathers, which you inherited at birth) and in that prayerful process of “getting saved” and becoming a born-again believer you promise that you’ll do your best to do your best as you move forward in life as a Christian. This is the starting point for Christian believers, and everything grows from there. I find the whole bit to be a rather large pill to swallow because it goes against most forms of reason (which faith shouldn’t necessarily do) as well as natural laws, but since it doesn’t actually apply to me I’m not terribly concerned. To be clear, I’m not writing this post to disparage Christianity. There’s somewhere in the range of 900 million reasons for why I could, but that’s not my goal.

What has been in my head since last Monday / Tuesday is what I intend to really focus on here and now. You see, if you have spent your entire life adhering to a belief system that has a core of, “Just tell Jesus you’re sorry and that he’s your savior and then live the best you can and you’ll avoid Hell” (aka almost ALL of Christianity), then you’re in no position to add to the grief of someone who’s fucked his own life up big-time and is now trying to work through it to a better life condition. Your entire life has been spent hoping to avoid a supposedly eternal punishment that you, by your own standards, “deserve” because of your own actions as well as the consequences you supposedly inherited from your forefathers’ sins – all by simply telling Jesus “I’m sorry.”

I’m here to tell you that if you can avoid eternal hellfire by doing little more than saying you’re sorry, then surely someone else who’s actively trying to make up for shortcomings has a chance at redemption, too. Get over yourself.

Aside from most of Christianity not making any real sense to me, something else baffles me: Apparently, I’m one of the best Christians I know. This is particularly interesting to me since I haven’t considered myself a Christian since my teens and early adult life. Fancy that!

When the best was briefly jailed I posted his bail. Shortly, I’ll be giving my entire temple room and main bathroom in my home to him as his new living quarters. The beloved and I will quite possibly purchase a moped for him, too, because it’s likely he’ll never be allowed to drive again. And because of things like this I’m accused of enabling – of helping him shirk the consequences of his actions.

Let me tell you something about enabling. A true enabler is someone who allows the person with a problem to continue in the path of the problem and to avoid any repercussions associated with walking that path. An enabler could be considered an eliminator because, for all their own misguided reasons, they do their best to eliminate the pain of the one they’re enabling.

That’s not what I’m doing.

I can bail him out of jail. I can open my home to him. I can buy him scooters to help keep him mobile. I can do all those things and so much more and none of it matters as much as haters say. All the power and generosity I can throw at this situation will still not allow him to escape the consequences of his actions. He will still have a miserable police record that will likely affect many aspects of his life for years and years to come. He will still be sentenced to some degree by the courts. He will still have to pay exorbitant legal fees. And he will still be forced into bankruptcy. Someone, please tell me – aside from cold weather exactly what hell am I sheltering him from? I’ll tell you what I definitely am doing. I’m loving him as I love myself.

Of all the rules in the Christian Bible that are followed so strictly, the TWO that Jesus actually says people should do (and which are echoed throughout the Bible starting with the books of Jewish law) are ignored! I can cite places in three of the Gospels where Jesus tells believers that they should 1) Love God with everything they have and 2) Love their neighbor as their own self. I promise these supreme imperatives, these maha-commandments, given by the Jagadguru of the Christians are entirely lost on them. I’m not enabling. I’m giving to him, in his hour of need, what I would hope to receive in mine. I’m not helping him avoid consequences. I’m just showing him the love I would want to be shown. I’m literally loving him as I love my Self – interestingly this is a point where Hinduism succeeds in combining the two because we know God to be the same as our Self. When I love my God with everything I have the natural result is to love my neighbor as my Self because my Self and My God are nondifferent.

Self-Immolation

Self-Immolation

I hate to say it, but at this point I’m about sick of this hypocrisy. Lazy Christian devotees, remaining as rigid as ever within their hearts, clearly are asleep behind the wheel. This religion very rarely encourages self-realization, and I guess because of that these believers are bound to have little understanding of what it means to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Perhaps if my Christian brothers, sisters, and dear friends would invest the effort to know even a taste of the Self at their own core and subsequently realize that the very same is sitting as the core essence of others, then this vomit-inducing hypocrisy would lessen in our world and we would all do a little better in this life.

I reposted something to Facebook today that was actually about rape, but the sentiment is applicable here no less. The repost said, “My strength is not for hurting.” I’m given so very much in this life. And I hope to receive about as much, also – at least when I’m in need. And I have tasted the Self within me enough to know clearly that my neighbor is indeed my Self. Miserably, I’m about the best Christian I know.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

The Elephant in the Room

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20131107 was a Thursday. I don’t write about these things very often, but I had an experience during that evening’s puja and when I shared tidbits about it with a friend, I received encouragement that this end up bloggered. So here you have it… To be clear, my daily pujas are REALLY simple. Short and sweet. I think the most the whole ordeal only ever really takes is something around 15-20 minutes. On particularly “holy” days, I do a bit more in terms of worship.

Last night was only different from any normal week night puja in that my home mandir has been newly decorated with some white Xmas lights. I’ve done this before and really enjoy the warm, glowing effect it has on the entire temple room. But that’s not entirely true about last night’s puja only being different because of Xmas lights. Last night was also different because “something” happened. When I mentioned this to my friend, I think I put it in terms of a “visitation” but the closer reality is likely that it was more of a “clarification.”

My home mandir currently

My home mandir currently

I’m sitting before the mandir like always, doing the ritual like always. I recall a certain point in the process when I almost suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone. My immediate perception was that Shri Ganesh-ji had “arrived” and was in the room with me. Mind you, the beginning of every puja involves an invocation, so technically He’s always present during puja. I call to Him. He arrives. And I worship. This time however, the air in the room felt like it was more occupied than usual.

Toward the end of the puja I spend time in contemplation, dhyana, japa. It was at this time that I felt particularly aware of the room and everything happening in it. The glow from the mandir was pleasant. The asana I had wrapped myself in was hugging. The incense, a recent Diwali gift from my bahin in Atlanta, smelled great. For a very short time I seemed to feel the vibrations from the shlokas and other things intoned during the puja – as if they were reverberating throughout the room still. Then suddenly, and very sweetly, I realized that I wasn’t alone in the room. My first thought was something like, “Whoa-shit! Ganesha’s here big time!” The only form of Ganesha that I actually saw was the Vira-Ganesh murti in my mandir, but I really felt another, far-fuller, Presence.

Some readers are likely entertaining thoughts like, “This kind of stuff is all in his head.” And, I believe, that is the truth. Now, before anyone gets all huffy and puffy on me, let me say that I’m not implying that Ganesh is imaginary. What I intend to say instead is that Ganesh and I are essentially non-different and what I really, truly, and actually felt then was my Self.

I recall Shri Eckhart Tolle telling of a time when he was at his lowest and had grown suicidal. One of the last thoughts he recalls from the moments before he planned to go through with the act was “I cannot live with myself.” Strangely, right then, it dawned on him that there were two entities in that thought. There was first the “myself” that couldn’t be lived with and then there was also the “I” that seemed to be speaking and could no longer tolerate an existence with the “myself.” He questioned right then who was the “I” that couldn’t live with his “myself.” It was then that he realized that there is a component of who he is that isn’t touched by the misery of the “myself” and had grown weary of experiencing that misery.

Some would maybe say that this sounds a little like a schizophrenic break, but the reality is: We are not our mind.

The mind is an immensely powerful thing. And the ego, necessary for functioning in this life, maintains an incredibly close relationship with the mind. One of the results of this relationship is that we begin identifying with our thoughts and consequently believe that we are our mind – or that our thoughts reflect our truest selves. It’s not true.

There’s a saying, which this post is titled after, that mentions “the elephant in the room” and references something not spoken about, but potentially quite obvious. The elephant felt to be in the room with me during the final moments of last night’s puja is That. This elephant could well be called Ganesha. It would just as well be called my Self – the timeless spark of God that lives in each of us. The “I” that lives with “myself.” It’s very much like “the elephant in the room” because it’s not spoken of hardly ever, yet it’s all that there really is. I suppose within the Advaita Hindu view of things, this elephant is in the room and pervades the room, and IS the room. I often am able to separate my mind/ego from who I am – even to the point that I can watch the mind/ego function, and as Tolle says, it’s madness. But it was a blessing and true surprise last night when my Self became the Ganesha my worship was directed at – and that the connection was so complete that “I” filled the room and even surprised my own mind.

The friend who encouraged me to publish a post about the experience, when I initially refused, encouraged me to write – not so much to say, “Look how awesome this was” as to say, “Look what’s out there.” Reader, please know You are what’s out there. You are what’s worshipable. And You are far more awesome than even yourself realizes.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti