Sunday, September 22, 2013

master maneuvering

My makeshift altar to Swami Lakshmanjoo.
There are some days when you know that you are more or less in control. That your destiny is in your hands--or so you think.

Then there are the other days when you know all is totally out of your hands, that it might have been there in your palms at some point, but then things change. Most of the time, we resist this. And struggle. Other times we surrender and allow ourselves to be softly moved and guided.

I feel an expert at the former. Of finding myself suddenly out of control and digging my soles in because by-golly I don't want to be moved in another direction. I have chosen my path and intend to walk it by any means necessary!

The days, however, when I don't struggle, these days are so very different. So very soft. And while it is easier to surrender to the lighter things in life, when I do, it's still surprising how things flow into one direction, even if it is not the way I meant it to be.

Today feels like I've been maneuvered gently back into a space that I'd been avoiding. For certain reasons, my meditation practice has been less than regular.  I hadn't performed puja since I left the Pyranees. My spiritual practices have been overshadowed by the simple act of surviving--which I think is acceptable, and most probably necessary.

Today, it was time to come back, the universe seemed intent to herd me back into the fold with the mahasamadhi celebration of Swami Lakshmanjoo, a Kashmiri saint with whom I have felt a strong resonance with.

I also played my part in this co-creation. The night before. I set up an altar, prepared my offerings, made the intention that I too would celebrate all on my own for the first time, here in Osaka. But I also wondered when there would be time. I would be practicing and teaching in the morning. Then lunch and tutoring some students English. Still, I knew the altar to Swamiji would be waiting at home.

Then I arrived early at the studio to practice only to find that the space was already in use for a private class. Instead of wasting a ride back home, I took my mat down by the nearby riverside. There, I sat and meditated in the shady outdoors. It felt like a gift from Swamiji. As if he were saying, now is the time to meditate, so sit, lady, sit!

Then my English lesson was cancelled and I could return home much earlier than anticipated. I thought, clever, Swamiji, you've even cleared my afternoon.

On the way home from the restaurant where I had quick lunch (not the lingering kind we often do) with students after class, I spotted, as we were walking down the shotangai, a shop I'd never seen before filled with little Japanese curiosities. What caught my eye was a large Zen Buddhist Daruma or dharma doll. I could not believe it, I had been looking for this doll since I arrived in Japan. And it's been two months! Today of all days, it appears.

A powerful talisman, it is also used as a tool for goal setting. I wanted to use it as a marker in which to set my new goal. Coincidence? Perhaps. But also another gift, an opportunity to set intentions. I bought one of the travel sized ones.

As I returned home I received a message that a package had arrived and would I like to pick it up from the studio? And then I was off, riding my bicycle in the mid-afternoon sun. Not too far from home, I asked myself what was the point of running after some old things that had just been sent to me? I turned, stopped by the neighborhood flower shop. I had forgotten the flowers. The package could wait, but flowers, it seemed, were definitely in order (or on order by Swamiji).

In the end I was able to chant several Kashmiri hymns and the temple verses with only a little prompting from recordings. It was an intense two and a half hours singing them on my own, but it was nonetheless special, perhaps more so because of it. I also sat and meditated three times during the entire day; they weren't long sits but they were a good start. After the post chant meditation, I felt exhausted. As I looked pathetically at Swamiji's picture, he seemed to say, well what did you expect, leaving it so long.

All in all, it was a quiet day. No homa, no fire ceremony. Only a little bit of burning incense, sage and palosanto. Just me and the likeness of this venerable saint. Some freshly cut flowers and washed fruit. But his spirit, I could feel, was with me too, moving from place to place, creating opportunities, removing obstacles that I would have gladly embraced, making me sit and watching me do it.

I'm not entirely proud of having fallen off the spiritual bandwagon. I know that I have been in tune in other ways, through teaching, for example, and that other things have taken priority for very good reasons, also having to do with my wellbeing. But what I realize about today is that when time comes, we will be led back into alignment (with whatever it is that we believe in), so long as we allow ourselves to be moved by the gentle, quiet grace of the master.

To Swamiji, with so much gratitude!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

preparing the altar, swamiji's mahasamadhi

Preparing the altar for puja. Fruits are washed.
Flowers will be bought and gently placed
before Swamiji.

Tomorrow, 22 September, will be Swami Lakshmanjoo's mahasamadhi. Timing once again seems incredibly perfect. I have not offered puja to Swamiji, the Kashmiri saint of the Kashmir Shivite tradition, since I left the Spanish Pyranees, two months ago. So many things have been in the way, most of it in my head. 

But this last week has been a week of openings, of gentle releases, of taking big expansive breaths. I am feeling more myself than I have felt in ages. This is a good state, I remind myself, as I prepare to meet with such a Master, though I am still a little nervous about it. 

In 2011, I was in Culver City, with devotees of Swami Lakshmanjoo, who told stories from memory, lessons from him given directly to them. Last year, I was in Romania, amidst the Carpathian mountains with friends, together we chanted the hymns to him.

This year, I am on my own. It will just be me and Swamiji. (Aside: I hope I don't freak out my share house mates in Osaka with the chanting!) I'm excited to meet with him like this, to humbly present myself--just as I am--along with the offerings, to chant as best as I can remember on my own. I will surely stumble through it. But it will be real, it will be honest. And as I was told two years ago, this day is not about me, it's about Swamiji. And for that, I am so totally ready.   

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

borrowed wisdom from Stevie Nicks

Song for the moment, Landslide:

I took my love and I took it down 
I climbed a mountain and I turned around 

And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills 
'Till the landslide brought me down 

Oh, mirror in the sky 
What is love? 
Can the child within my heart rise above? 
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides? 
Can I handle the seasons of my life? 

Mmm Mmm... 

Well, I've been afraid of changing 
'Cause I've built my life around you 
But time makes you bolder 
Children get older 
I'm getting older too 

Well, I've been afraid of changing 
'Cause I, I built my life around you 
But time makes you bolder 
Children get older 
I'm getting older too 
I'm getting older too 

So, take my love, take it down 
Oh climb a mountain and turn around 
If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills 
Well the landslide will bring you down, down 

And If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills 
Well maybe the landslide will bring it down 
Oh oh, the landslide will bring it down