Day 51- om symbol meditation

When we arrived in Mexico City yesterday, I meet my niece, Sophia, for the first time since she was a baby. It takes less than ten minutes for her shyness to melt away and I get shown her room. This is any child’s rite of passage. You know you are accepted with a little girl when you are bestowed the high honour and privilege of being shown their favourite possessions. She is a clever, independent little angel, who loves the colour pink and wants to be a ballerina when she grows up. She chats to Andrew in Spanish, and when he asks her questions in English, she responds in perfect English. We are standing at the fruit market ordering fruit and I hear, “Tia, Tia!” I look down and she says, “Te amo.” I love you. I almost start crying as I pick her up and squeeze her. She kindly requests to be put down after a minute.

We spend some time walking around and around the market place known as the Ciudadela. On the way in, we pass a square where a punk band is playing and some older couples at the back are practicing their waltz. The ciudadela is the artisanal market and is a bright splash of colour, from Mexican rugs to skulls, religious icons, hats, bags, wooden toys and silver jewellery. After three laps of the market looking for a cross for my brother, I can feel Andrew’s frustration. I could stay lost in this market all day but eventually I buy the first cross I looked at and we walk out towards the car. The square is full of dread locks and covered in a cloud of Maria Juanita. The nearby police stand by idly and we joke that they are probably the ones selling. We stop to listen to the reggae band, but it is their last song so we eventually walk on.

After a day indulging my marketplace fetish, it is Andrew’s turn and we are again in a tattoo parlour. He has finally found a Mexican skull that he likes and most of the detail is right on his knee cap. I sit next to him in the small studio and consider offering him my hand to squeeze, as he had done for me the other day, but judging from the white knuckles on his own hands I keep mine in my lap. I can’t go outside in this neighbourhood by myself so I have no choice but to sit right where I am and meditate. My Eden cardigan has a big OM symbol on the back so I spread it open in my lap and stare at it. I decide not to close my eyes. With the sound of the needle, the occasional chatter around me and the sound of Metallica in the background, I need to focus on the visual representation of this symbol.

Om is an ancient symbol and its sound represents the vibration of the universe, the sound Brahma made when he created it and the holy trinity of Hinduism; Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and their associations of creation, sustenance and destruction as the cycle of life. Om reflects absolute reality, embracing the entirety of existence. Taken letter by letter as A-U-M it is the divine energy of Shakti. The shape of the symbol represents the four states of consciousness. Awake is the lowest curve and represents the material world; sleep is the upper curve; dream state is the curve in between waking and sleep and the dot represents the highest state of consciousness, Samadhi or bliss. The semi circle represents the infinite, the vast openness of the space around us.

As I meditate, I begin with the lowest curve and slowly my attention moves up until I can feel my higher self transcending beyond the room that I am in and my eyes are focused on the dot- the bliss. It feels truly blissful and when I am finished, I am pleased at my ability to do this in the environment that I am in. After a moment spent grounding, I open my eyes and look at Andrew’s knee. It looks amazing, so far and although he is laughing, I can see his hand gripping his thigh as though he might tear out his quad muscle.

Day 50- Popocatepetl

We are on the bus to Mexico City. It is early in the morning and I am dozing off as the sun rises, trying to keep my eyes awake to watch the beautiful view. As I fall asleep, my head slips and hits the window, waking me up suddenly. I sit up and stretch, then gaze at the mountainous countryside. I am wide awake now. As the bus winds up higher into the mountains of the state of Mexico, the landscape is changing. The cactus is surrounded by luscious red and green trees, and bare mountains and farms reveal deep crevices in the earth where water has trickled downhill to the low river that runs along the side of the highway. There is no question that this will be the most meditative part of my day. Mexico is such a beautiful place. The desert, the farmland, the mountains, all hold a magical energy. The vast emptiness of the land, pure and fertile, reflects the state of my meditative mind. There is no need for lotus, for incense, for a yoga mat. Addressing the beauty of the earth, there is space for the soul to exist. This is from The Radiance Sutras, sutra number 57.

Find something so enchanting to behold,

That you are transfixed, ravished.

Allow yourself to be captivated.

 

Gaze upon its form

With the eyes of wonder.

Attend to the details –

This shape and texture, these colours…

How can something so beautiful possibly exist?

 

With a steady gaze, melt into

The field of space embracing that form,

And at once,

Be at one with the creator, who is

Looking through your eyes, loving creation.

Day 49- sorry mum but this is a tattoo meditation

Tattoos are a rite of passage, marks of spiritual devotion and cultural significance, talismans and symbols. I have chosen this design because it represents my heritage, my Mexican bloodline, the fascination with death culture that almost laughs in the face of death and embraces it as a part of life. I have chosen to place it on my foot because that is my root, my connection to the ground.

We are in Oaxaca and we spend the morning eating egg yolk bread dipped in hot chocolate and tamales. In the evening we return to the plaza Santo Domingo and I prepare myself for the pain. Sitting in the chair, my stomach is flipping from the sound of the needle. I sit back and relax my jaw as the needle digs into my skin. The first sting is always the worst. The skin on the top of the foot is very thin. There are many nerves and small bones there. The pain is some of the worst I have ever felt, but at the same time I know that I am creating this for myself. I allow all my attention to focus on the sensation of the needle touching my skin. I become totally engrossed in the experience of pain until it no longer hurts. I feel the pain, but it is no longer a bad experience, it is just an experience. The tattoo takes about an hour to complete. As it gets close to the end, I allow myself to come back into the room. The intense focus of pain on my foot is grounding so that I don’t find it hard to adjust out of the meditation. The tattoo is beautiful and we are late to meet my family for dinner.

My right foot is swollen and I spend the rest of the night limping around. I am like Frida Kahlo, who suffered from an injured right foot for her whole life.

Not everybody likes tattoos, not everybody agrees with them and I know that every time I get a new one, many people in my family shake their heads in disapproval. But this is a part of me, this art is in my skin and is part of who I am. I don’t offer any apologies for them. After all, they are just a part of my body and my body is not the sum and total of who I am. I am more than my skin and the pictures on it. I am more than my body in this lifetime. When I meditate, I transcend beyond this body, beyond the pain and I am my true self. And my true self is love, not judgement. My true self even loves my tattoos.

Day 48- floating meditation on our last day in Puerto Escondido

It is our last day in Puerto Escondido. I go for one final swim in Mexican waters. The waves are fairly big so I swim past the breakers and float; the General’s meditation from the Marquez novel, The General and his Labyrinth. Floating on the surface of the water, I stare at the vast expanse of blue sky and remember the last time I found a floating meditation in Mexico, six years ago. I was in an under ground cenote, a sinkhole, filled with fresh water. I floated and stared up at the vines hanging down toward me, feeling like I was in the belly of the earth. Here on the surface of the ocean, I feel the same sense of peace and tranquility that is inherent to water. The feeling of the cool water around my skin is soft and comforting. Salt water can fix anything. Suddenly I hear Andrew calling out and I look up in time to see the set coming in. I swim out and, waiting for the waves to break, swim back in to shore.

Standing on solid ground, I spend some silent moments sending farewells to the Mexican coast, remembering the amazing people we have met. Negro, the owner of El Salvador habitaciones, who yelled at Andrew when he thought he was another man after he shaved off his bigotes, his moustache (this became the running joke, when they saw him, Negro would yell, “Oy es otro hombre!”, “Hey it’s another man!”); Monica and Adamo from La Choza de Viernes, who sat with us on our last night and talked about life and love and the difference between men and women; and Larry, the Southern Baptist from North Carolina, who has a story for every life experience and is moving up to the top floor of the hotel to live out his days among the palm trees…

Onto another part of the journey, and our final week in Mexico we board the bus at 2pm for Oaxaca. Immediately we start sweating- the bus has been left in the sun and the air conditioner hasn’t kicked in yet. We sit in the back of the bus, literally baking until we get to Huatulco, two hours away. Suddenly the air conditioner turns on and within half an hour we are cold in our clothes that are damp from sweat. At Salina Cruz we run out for a sandwich and when we get back on to the now full bus, the air conditioner has stopped working again. In fact, now it is blowing hot air. The rest of the passengers are complaining and fussing and the frustrated bus driver (dressed in long sleeve shirt and woolly vest) pulls over to open the two ceiling doors, letting in a minute breeze that barely competes with the hot air. When it is this hot, thoughts can’t come and for a while I find myself in meditative silence. All I can think about is the cool Mexican ocean. I am still floating there. Eventually we pass out. The air conditioning comes back on just before we arrive in Oaxaca at midnight.

Day 47- dreamcatchers

Last night I had a dream that I was with my spirit sister, fellow yogini, writer, love ninja and close friend Zani. We were on a roof and wanted to do an eagle meditation. We found one online that said we needed to make a dreamcatcher. We didn’t have materials so we got a huge piece of pink chalk and went up to the roof of the building we were in and started drawing a huge dreamcatcher on the roof. We wanted it to be seen by someone- it was a message we were sending to the clouds.

What a beautiful dream. How could I not do this? It was fairly clear instructions. Eagle meditation: make a dreamcatcher and send it to the clouds. And those who know Zani would recognise this as exactly something she would do as well. Zani is like an American, blonde version of me. With more bangles. She is one of those people that floats and shimmies around the world to the rhythm of an internal drum. When I think of her, I imagine this bright pink flame energy, dancing and sparkling through the air, gently touching everyone she meets and leaving them with a little frisson.

I know I have to make the dreamcatcher big. It has to be seen by someone through/in/beyond the clouds. I wait for low tide and go down to the beach with a stick. I start drawing a huge dreamcatcher on the wet sand. People stop to watch but nobody asks me what I am doing or why. It’s like they just knew it is important. I finish the giant dreamcatcher and stand in the water staring at it for a long time. Then I look up at the clouds and ask them to please deliver this message. I trust that they know who to give it to even if I don’t.

I go for a swim and play in the water, making my time getting tumbled by waves an extension to the meditation. When I eventually get thrown back to the shore I realise the water has also taken my dreamcatcher message. Maybe there just aren’t enough clouds in the blue Mexican sky.

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Day 46- manifestation meditation

I firmly believe that if you believe in something, you can make it happen. Every new year I write down my goals and at the end of the year, I tick the ones I have accomplished and then write a whole new list of accomplishments and gratefuls. I believe in the power of the written word. Writing down what I intend to have in the present tense always works to manifest dreams. I believe that if I visualise my car surrounded in white light that I can avoid a parking ticket. I believe that if I lie down and close my eyes and visualise my dream, meditating on each specific aspect of a goal, that I can make it happen. I did it when I wanted to become a yoga teacher, I did it when I wanted to move overseas and I am doing it now.

My goal is to be a serious (paid) writer. I have been saying this since I was old enough to read. I knew from the moment I read my first word that I wanted to always be involved in these beautiful things we call books. When I get home from a long trip away, I stand in front of my bookshelf and stare at my books, remembering the ones I have read and looking forward to the endless list of books I have not read. I often feel very sad that I am too young to have known my favourite authors. I am often even sadder when I realise that life is too short to read every book in existence. For me, reading is my first love, a meditation, my drug of choice.

We wake up early and head to La Barra. In my early morning crankiness, I speak very little until we find an OXXO shop with hot chocolate. When we get to La Barra, I set up a little spot beside a log, under the shade of Andrew’s spare surfboard. I sit and read. After some time I am sweating and need a swim. When I get back, I leave my book to the side and close my eyes. I begin with breath awareness and then slowly begin the manifestation meditation. I see myself printing the pages of my book, sending it off in a yellow envelope, the publisher’s face as she reads, the letters I receive back, signing the dotted line and finally, the finished product. I know which tea I am drinking when I read the letters. I know what time of year it is and what flowers are in bloom. I know how I dress when I meet with the publisher for the first time. I have every aspect of my dream worked out. I close the meditation and without opening my eyes, pick up my book, imagining it has my name printed on it.

Eventually I open my eyes and continue to read.

Day 45- fire sutra

I wake up and make a half-hearted attempt at an asana practice, but am soon overcome by a stronger desire for an omelette. We head to breakfast at Café Ole and when we get back, my unrolled mat is still staring at me. Andrew wants to go get a car from Huatulco, which is about two hours away, so that we can check a wave at La Barra de la Cruz. I want to meditate and do some yoga. For a moment we come to head to head over this. Surfing vs Yoga. Essentially, we are each arguing for our own bliss. As we storm downstairs with the intention to make a tense journey to Huatulco, our dear one-legged neighbour, Larry, overhears us speaking to somebody else about our plan. “Y’all rentin’ a car? I got me one, I’ll cut ya a deal!” We briefly discuss this and then walk back upstairs, where we realise we were just saved most of the hassle and now we can both have our bliss. Still in the mood to go somewhere, we head into Zicatela beach to exchange some books. I spend some blissful time scanning the shelves of Café Babylon and sipping a rose and cinnamon tea. This is exactly my idea of a good day.

When we come back home I am flicking through the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra; The Radiance Sutras, translated by Lorin Roche. Essentially this tantric text is a dialogue between Devi and Bhairava in which Devi asks about the nature of life and how to enter into the spanda, the pulsation, of the universe. She is given a poetic yet practical answer. Through the verses, one hundred and twelve methods of meditation are described. Each one is like an instructional song on how to tune into the rhythms, the energy and the divine flow of life. Roche says, ‘All of these methods involve savouring the incredible intensity underlying the most common experiences. They work by activating the senses… the basics dynamics of life – breathing, falling asleep, waking up, walking, loving – are all used as gateways into alignment and enlightenment.’

I love this text and was a part of a workshop with Lorin and his wife, Camille, learning how to really explore the sutras and put them into practice. I considered spending four months out of this year working through each and every sutra, but I am not sure when I will have enough of a routine to do that this year, so I instead have turned to their pages for inspiration. Using it like an oracle, it is easy to just flip through and find one that resonates. Today I have picked my favourite. Sutra #30.

 

Imagine the entire world consumed by flame.

Stay steady, do not waver,

As fire transmutes form into light.

The Soul reveals itself

To itself as Radiance.

 

I go down to the beach for a swim and then sit on the solid earth. It is a hot day, with a hot wind so as I close my eyes, I find it easy to imagine the world around me engulfed in flames. The crash of waves sounds like the roar of a fire burning out of control. I imagine the water on fire, the sand, the buildings, the rocks, trees and cacti burning in bright flames. I imagine the people calmly burning brightly. For a moment, I feel my heart skip a beat. Stay steady, do not waver. I breathe deeply and see myself consumed by the fire that is changing everything into pure light energy. Radiance is revealed- the entire world, everything known, seen and felt is light. We are all just light. We are all made of stars. There is no fear in this. I see the radiant light of all that is; living and non-living connected by divine radiance.

After a while, I slowly close the meditation and return to the space. I open my eyes to the sparkle of the ocean, the sun is reflecting on the surface and dancing about like firecrackers. I get in the water to cool off and rinse the sand from me. As I look around it feels as though everything is radiating, like I can see the twinkle of firelight on everything. The hot sand below me is like sacred ash and the hot wind is blowing against my back.

Ignited by this fire energy, I shower and sit down on my neglected mat. Now I am ready for some asana. I burn through the practice and then feel myself burning from within. The previous frustration and anger from this morning are just melting away until I realise I don’t even really remember why I was so bothered! I have a renewed energy and I think the fire energy has even affected my digestion. When we go out to the Pig Roast and Chicken Shit Bingo (yes, it is exactly as it sounds- when the chicken shits on your numbers, you win!), I find it easier to eat chilli and harder to drink alcohol. Eventually I give up and eat a crème caramel and then enough bread and butter that I am almost too full for my chiles rellenos, stuffed chilli peppers. (I like to do dessert first sometimes.) Tonight I lay warmly in bed and sleep well.

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