Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Gently down the stream

My seven year old came up to me today and asked, in the straight, intent way he generally springs such surprises, "Is our life God's dream?"

It was a penny dropping in the slot moment for me because that is what I've low-key been realising all my life. Think back to the events of your life and you can discern an underlying phantasmagorical quality to it all - "like twinkling stars, figments seen with an eye disease, the flickering light of a butter lamp, magical illusions, dew, bubbles, dreams, lightning, and clouds." This whole life a blip, a gift, a coin flip.

I feel this especially whenever I visit the side of town I grew up in during my teenage years. I see the landmarks around the roads I travelled that used to be my playground. I see the house in the woods, the lake nearby, reached by a winding road by the side of a deep gorge - and I have the whimsical fancy that if I were to go down there and slip through the door as of yore, perhaps I would find them all just as they were then - mother, father, brother, sister.

Scenes and experiences that we lived through - nothing but the shape of a memory now. A dream. The only unchanging factor is the part of us that watches everything come and go in profound awareness. When we attach to certain parts of the kaleidoscopic dream, there is nostalgia, suffering, loss. But when we identify with the simple awareness that has always held, allowed and witnessed everything, and always will, there's comfort in knowing that no matter what comes and goes, we'll still be in here, watching. There's also unbearable poignancy in the realisation that there's nothing here to have and to hold, but only to feel and to be, and to love and to serve, as whatever unfolds in life passes for an exquisite moment over our horizon.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Into the deep

I was at a retreat last weekend and our group visited the beach at dawn. After our session, a few people paddled into the waves on the shore, but a Japanese woman in the group went straight for the deep, bobbing and diving like a mermaid where the waves were forming. It looked like a miraculous feat of daring to those of us watching from the shore.

When I was ready to go in, she held hands with me as we ventured beyond the rough breakers crashing on the shore. We held hands as I acclimated to the movement of the warm, calm, silky ocean. We held hands as waves lifted us high over the ocean floor, being able to sustain the depths because of the comfort of each other’s presence. Eventually, we let go and floated and swam and kicked up our feet and did all those things that look miraculous from the shore, while the waves swelled and rolled beneath us.

We tried to entice other people in, and swore it was the easiest thing in the world, much easier than struggling with the push-pull of the breakers on the shore, but discovered it is not something that can be forced on others. The switch to want to move beyond the breakers has to turn on from within. It helps to have a companion to hold hands with initially. Then you’re at home in the ocean, where your freedom and play look like unimaginable feats of daring to those who won’t leave the shore.

A perfect metaphor for life.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing

Shared this pic on Instagram recently, and a poem of pure genius whose meaning has eluded me came to mind along with it and interpreted itself perfectly.

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. 
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

(~TS Eliot)

When life takes you down, down, down into the darkness, stifles you with your own ideas, longings, desires, uncompromisingly strips you raw and leaves you there, empty - it's doing you the greatest service. It's what you came here for - to lose yourself and be filled with Life itself.

Then you rise, rise, rise, break the surface and greet the light of day. You are free to dance with life. As lightly as a leaf or a snowflake. You are free to flow with life. As gleefully as a mountain spring cascading down the hillside.

What we desire and yearn for is a projection based on our past experiences and our imagination of the future. It is a product of the mind and therefore limited by the scope of our humanness. But what if you could open beyond to where Life is beckoning you? To the truth of every moment where watering the plants right in front of you is enough? Life is the dancer cuing us in and leading us into the unknown, and we are the dance, the willingness to move and the faith to allow the creativity, the surprise.

Can you let Life rip from your grip the toys you hold so covetously, the toys that give you no joy, and stop crying for the toys you think you need? Can you let Life lead you to places you didn't know would fulfill you and the people you didn't know you needed to meet and the things you didn't know you could do?

“Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?”

All you need is trust. All you need is surrender. All you need is the openness to move with Life in its infinite potentiality without imprisoning it with your expectations.

What a marvel it is that we get to be here dancing empty-handed. With God. With Life. With each other.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The man on the subway

One thing that stayed with me after a recent trip to London was the reproachful memory of the man on the subway.

We were riding the Underground when a man entered and addressed the whole car, probably East European judging by his accent, saying he was homeless and in need of help, and appealed for some spare change. My hand went to my bag, but my host in London who was with me that day, stopped me indicating you don't give to people like these. Again he appealed, again my hand went to my bag, again my host stopped me. I looked around the full car hoping someone else would give something, but everyone was sitting with averted eyes like they couldn't see or hear him. The man waited a full two minutes, and then left the car. Just another day in paradise.
This stung especially in the wake of another previous encounter at King's Cross station where a black woman with sad eyes had approached us asking for help and my companion at the time had waved her off, and I'd passively let it happen. She was reeking of smoke and might have misused money, but surely I could have offered to buy her a meal and a drink from one of the dozens of stalls all around us.

The obvious question is whether to give money or not since it can be misused, but there was a subtler connotation around both these experiences about giving in to the dominant vibe. Why this pernicious passivity? What allows us to let the external frequency of our surroundings and companions override the inner impulse to respond? How does this passivity take root? Because of non-alignment. Non-alignment with the core essence of what we are. If that flame was kept alive, do you think it would have allowed me to be passive while people in trouble went empty-handed? Do you think it would have allowed me to be a part of that stony-eyed stony-faced crowd that pretended not to see or hear the man appealing to them for help? I never want to experience this awful passivity again. As Baba says, one must be ready, ready, ready. In every moment, no matter in which part of the Earth, in whatever circumstance or company. You only hone that readiness by keeping the flame alive. How is the flame kept alive? By practices that keep you aligned - for me, it is reading/listening to wisdom teachings, meditation, yoga or whatever gets the god-flow in the body, contemplation, and a cultivation of constant integrated awareness. Also, and most importantly, by not being numbed by distractions and addictions and popular culture.

I watched Brene Brown on Netflix yesterday discussing what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty. She defines vulnerability as the courage to put yourself out there in the arena, to show up and be willing to be seen, to leave the comfort zone enough to say the unsaid, and to risk emotional exposure, especially when you can't control the outcome. It's the opposite of fitting in.

She says, "Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.” This great article explores the idea of true belonging further.
It's clear to see how we're trained from birth to do things to be safe, unseen, fit in, hide our true heart, choose to be comfortable, put our heads down and only watch out for ourselves, tune out those who are suffering... It was so obvious to me on the London tube. Anywhere else too, workplace, school, anywhere there is a crowd, fitting in is the norm.

Kahlil Gibran writes in his masterpiece 'On Giving':

You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

What will the world look like if we are at all times aligned with our true self, if we emit our own frequency instead of absorbing the frequency of our surroundings, if we are willing to be seen and put ourselves out there when we feel called to do so?

As Brene Brown says, it's clear that the days of "engineering smallness and playing it safe to avoid criticism" are over. It's not worth living hiding in the crowd anymore.

Whenever I remember the whole lot of us ignoring the man on the subway, who ironically enough was the only one in that crowd exhibiting vulnerability and courage, I'm comforted by this verse from The Dhammapada.
Verse 172: The Diligent Illumine The World

 Whoso was heedless formerly
 but later lives with heedfulness
 illuminates the world
 as moon when free of clouds.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

What Love Is

Another Rebelle moment. This one pretty much wrote itself. And sent itself to be published too, unedited ;)

The usual procedure - write something in a burst of inspiration. Encounter it after a few months and be stunned and soothed by the wisdom which happens to be the exact medicine you need at the moment. Then the universe taps you on the shoulder and says to put it out there. And you simply do it cos you've discovered by now that when the universe gets tapping on your shoulder, it's futile to resist.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Finding yourself

I mostly write to listen to myself. It's one way I can clearly perceive my own truths. I felt called to collect together some jottings, make them into an article and send it off to my favourite online magazine Rebelle Society, which describes itself as a "revolutionary online magazine reporting daily acts of Creative Rebellion and celebrating the Art of Being Alive." My kind of thing basically :) They accepted and published the article straight away, and here it is:

Finding yourself amid the weapons of mass distraction


Saturday, December 9, 2017

If not now

If not now, tell me when
If not now, tell me when.
We may never see this moment
Or place in time again
If not now, if not now, tell me when.

- Carrie Newcomer (If Not Now)

I came across this brilliant, fearless, enlightened American writer, speaker and awesome being, Robert Rabbin, through Twitter. Liked a few of his posts; he followed my account and I followed his.

A few weeks ago, he posted a piece of his, characteristically delightful and open, about being free enough and authentic enough to randomly say "I love you" to anyone you feel like without worrying about how it would look or be received:

I read that post, and wanted to comment "I love you" or "I love your spirit" but held back, because making a comment on Twitter shows up on the timeline of everyone following me and I didn't necessarily want it witnessed en masse. Because of how weird it would look to say that to a stranger on social media which was, ironically enough, the very point of his article. I found out today that Robert passed on this week. On Twitter, he still follows me. But it's too late to say "I love you".

In honour of his diamond light crossing my life, I want to remind myself of all that he stood for, and embody that in my own life. That would be the best way of saying "I love you" to this beautiful soul who lighted up the world with his deeply authentic, transparent and insightful communications.

Here's what he embodied and always wrote about, made all the more poignant by his recent passing and my recent bypassing. Talk about the universe hammering home a lesson!

"• My life span is now. Right here and now is where I play my game, show my game, or lack of one. It’s time for skin in the game, all out, no holds barred self-expression and engagement.

• Stop hiding. This may mean different things to different people. For me, it is just that: stop hiding, you chicken shit. Bring it out, bring it on. But don’t intend to hurt anyone.

• I’m not meant to be “like anyone else.” Authenticity has become more than a word, more than a book title, more than a calling card. It’s the essence of life. Better to be real than right.

• Living in “I don’t know” is a very truthful place to live, and its openness is staggering. A million artists live there, inside your own I don’t know center. You’ll be blown away by what that allows you to say and do.

• A sense of humor: if you don’t have one, get one. Don’t sell your life or your soul for money. If you get some, give most of it away. Live simply. Learn to touch the skin of physical existence. Kiss the surfaces and then the depths of everything. It’s okay to be vulnerable. You can say “I love you” to anyone at anytime. You can cry. You can be silent. You can stop to admire beauty wherever you see it. Make sure you are kind to kids, and give them plenty of attention.
Don’t hold grudges. Your body is smart. Listen to it. It knows.

• Don’t be afraid of deep emotions. Don’t spiritually side-step them. Speak your truth. Say it. Your life depends on it. Rip your skin off and let your guts pour out into the world. Be fiercely loving of life. Live it. Be kind, thank people, help them out. Do what you can.

• Have confidence in your own being. You are a child of Existence!"

- Robert Rabbin

If you feel the impulse to give someone a compliment, give it now.
If you feel the impulse to acknowledge someone's work, acknowledge it now.
If you feel the impulse to profess love to a kindred stranger on social media, profess it now.
Because now is all we have.

No more bypassing. Witnessed or not, understood or not, speak the truth of the moment. "Stop hiding, you chicken shit" - thank you Robert Rabbin for this immortal message. Shine on.