Day 363 – the gods and goddesses

When I say god, I don’t know if I am talking about the same figure that is presented in church or in the bible. I feel like there is a more intimate divinity to which I speak when I pray. In India, when people say ‘Namaste’, it is a greeting that recognises the inner divinity in each of us. The light within me recognises the light within you. I spend a day in front of the television as it is so painfully hot in Brisbane. For some reason I seem to come across show after show about god. The old Moses movie is on and then Hercules. This leads me to think about Persephone, the goddess of the underworld, and Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of Love, War and Sexuality. Going back to so many religions there is a god for everything, even a servant god, Hanuman, in India who represents Bhakti yoga- the yoga of love and devotion. They say there are as many paths as there are people to walk them. Each person has their own relationship and opinion on who they pray to, if they pray at all. None can be wrong, as long as the faith there connects us to something which can bring happiness, fulfilment and awareness. Regardless of name or purpose, each god is just an aspect of the inexplicable divine. And if there is a valuable lesson to learn from this year, is not to complicate it with words. Silence is the path within. The divine doesn’t need the story. It already knows the ending.

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Day 266 to Day 272 – your wondrous works

Poetry and literature about meditation have been written extensively, so I decided to spend a week trying to write one. In vain, I tried, for in meditation there is only stillness and silence and writing poetry is the symptomatic release of a troubled mind. So I sought inspiration in the works of others about meditation or yoga or the divine…

 

Day 266 – I will trust my inner guide

 

I love to watch how birds soar on the win.

There appears to be such little effort, yet such joy.

I want to become like a bird and let my spirit soar on the winds that are blowing through my life.

I will not be crushed against the rocks!

I will sense the rhythm,

The flow

And react accordingly.

I will trust my inner guide.

–       J. Garrett Garrison & S Sheperd

 

 

Day 267 – the luxury to meditate

 

The luxury to apprehend

The luxury ‘t would be

To look at thee a single time,

An Epicure of me,

In whatsoever Presence, makes,

Till, for a further food

I scarcely recollect to starve,

So first am I supplied.

The luxury to meditate

The luxury it was

To banquet on thy Countenance,

A sumptuousness bestows

On plainer days,

Whose table, far as

Certainty can see,

Is laden with a single crumb-

The consciousness of Thee.

–       Emily Dickinson

 

 

Day 268 – OM! Reverence to Ganesha!

 

“The sky is clouded;

And the wood resembles the sky,

Thick-arched with black Tamala boughs;

O Radha, Radha! Take this Soul,

That trembles in life’s deep midnight,

To thy golden house.”

So Nana spoke, and, led by Radha’s spirit,

The feet of Krishna found the road aright;

Wherefore, in bliss which all high hearts inherit,

Together taste thy Love’s divine delight.

–       from the Sasnskrit of the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva

 

 

 

Day 269 – Else Not Say I

 

True pleasure breathes not city air,

Nor in Art’s temples dwells,

In palaces and towers where

The voice of Grandeur dwells.

 

No! Seek it where high Nature holds

Her court ‘mid stately groves,

Where she her majesty unfolds,

And in fresh beauty moves;

 

Where thousand birds of sweetest song,

The wildly rushing storm

And hungred streams which glide along,

Her mighty concert form!

 

Go where the woods in beauty sleep

Bathed in pale Luna’s light,

Or where amog their branches sweep

The hollow sounds of night.

 

Go where the warbling nightingale

In gushes rich doth sing,

Till all the lonely, quiet vale

With melody doth ring.

 

Go, sit upon a mountain steep,

And view the prospect round;

The hills and vales, the valley’s sweep,

The far horizon bound.

 

Then view the wide sky overhead,

The still, deep vault of blue,

The sun which golden light doth shed,

The clouds of pearly hue.

 

And as you gaze on this vast scene

Your thoughts will journey far,

Though hundred years should roll between

On Time’s swift-passing car.

 

To ages when the eart was yound,

When patriarchs, grey and old,

The praises of their god oft sung,

And oft his mercies told.

 

You see them with their bears of snow,

Their robes of ample form,

Their lives whose peaceful, gentle flow,

Felt seldom passion’s storm.

 

Them a calm, solemn pleasure steals

Into your inmost mind;

A quiet aura your spirit feels,

A softened stillness kind.

–       Charlotte Bronte

 

Day 270 – Eternal Life

 

There’s no time for hatred, only questions

What is love? Where is happiness?

What is life? Where is peace?

When will I find the strength to bring me relief?

 

Tell me where is the love in what your prophet has said?

Man it sounds to me just like a prison for the walking dead.

Well I’ve got a message for you and your twisted hope.

You’d better turn around and blow your kiss goodbye to life eternal, angel.

–       Jeff Buckley

 

 

Day 271 – The Opening of the Trunk

 

Moment of inner freedom

When the mind is opened

And the infinite universe is revealed

And the soul is left to wander

Dazed and confus’d,

Searching here and there

For teachers and friends.

 

Moment of freedom

As the prisoner

Blinks in the sun

Like a mole

From his hole

 

A child’s first trip

Away from home

 

That moment of freedom.

–       Jim Morrison

 

Day 272 – Pay attention to the signs

Last week after swimming across Malabar, I noticed a sign that someone had stuck in the bushes just above the south boat ramp. It said,

What manner of man is this that even the wind and sea obey him.

After consulting the oracle, I discovered It is a verse from the bible (Matthew 8:27) and refers to Jesus’ power over the weather. The south boat ramp of Malabar seems the most unlikely place to find such a quote and yet some of the wisest words I have read were on the back of toilet doors.

Today, we are driving up the coast. I haven’t been told where or why. Apparently this is how surprises are supposed to work though I don’t have much experience with this kind of thing. As we drive further away from the city, I can feel my whole body relax. We stop at a lookout and in the stone, I find another sign:

  

Ok, universe, I am listening now! The tradition of meditating on the back of one’s eyelids is beautiful and serves its purpose of pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, however the beauty of this world seems to be demanding that I open my eyes…

I see ocean. I see treas. I sea bright sunlight. I see love. I see energy. I see the world, as a wondrous work, as a constant point of focus; an eternal meditation. Basking in sun, connecting, existing, living within the world, as part of it. At the ashram in India we were told that the cycle of reincarnation began because the divine being wanted to experience life, to know what it felt like to breathe, to feel, to emote… but when the divine entered the living, the eternal ‘I’ forgot itself and now we are constantly struggling to find ourselves. What if we stop struggling and just do what we came here to do? (Enjoy life) The divine may just find us.

Day 133 – a mother’s love is unconditional

I once heard a woman say that the hardest thing a mother ever had to do was raise her own children so that one day they would no longer need her. Even my own mother told me that nobody could ever imitate the love a woman has for her child and that I would understand this level of unconditional love when I have my own children. I have not yet learned how to love unconditionally as my mother loves me.

I have loved selfishly, with expectations, judgements and attachment. When there are expectations, love cannot be pure or selfless or unconditional. Flaws are revealed and we quietly hope that change will happen. This is not love. I have realised that to merely accept the flaws is not enough. Unconditional love means to love the flaws, to love the imperfections and to enjoy the mistakes. It is to kiss the wounds as a mother would for a child, to cry harder than the child in the hope of absorbing their pain and to sacrifice even one’s own last breath in a final whisper of devotion. If I cannot treat someone in this way then my most sincere act of love would be to pray that they meet someone who can.

When a relationship ends, it is easy to put blame on each other and try to rationalise and justify. To believe in love without pain is naïve. To think another person will love without expectation is blind. To see external love as a saviour is to be lost in the maya, the illusion and forever suffer in the delusion.

“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.’ – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

But if we turn the love inwards, towards the divine self, the essence, the truth, the light, the atman, ‘god’, then it must be selfless. It must be unconditional. It must be pure and continuous. It must fill the cup until the cup overflows with ecstatic devotion. Then that pure love will flow out of the cup and into the world. Only then can love be without pain, for pain will fall away like the layers of illusion. Only then can love be without expectation because it will be in the now. Only then can love save us for it is from within and not from without.

If I nurture my spirit as my mother nurtures me, if I feed my soul as she fed me, if I sacrifice the external world for this divine love as she has sacrificed so much for me, then I can give unconditional love.

Day 127 – the many names of god

Ashley and I have created a new game. Basically, all day long we try to think of differences between America and Australia… For starters, there are RSL (Returned Soldier’s League) clubs in Australia where beer is really cheap. Australians call ‘ketchup’ tomato sauce and are way more liberal with swearing. She is shocked at how much American culture has seeped through entertainment and how many states I actually know, without having been taught them in school. She is also mildly embarrassed that Jersey Shore is shown in Australia.

We spend most of the day travelling to Jaipur. It is only five hours by car and we stop at Fahtebad Sikri Fort, only one hour out of Agra. It is hot and the tour guide grows impatient while we wonder around spending too much time taking photos and not enough time listening to his history lesson. The problem is that after seeing the Taj Mahal yesterday, other monuments are just not doing it for us. We try to be attentive about the Moghul emperor, Shah Jahan’s grandfather, who lived at Fahtebad Sikri, but we soon give up and go back to the car to fall asleep on the journey to Jaipur.

We give up the rest of the afternoon for finding internet and waiting around for dinner. We skipped lunch and are just staring at the clock, waiting for the kitchen to open. Over dinner, we start talking about the difference between religions. Pri, who is Hindu, doesn’t understand the difference between the Messiah and a Prophet. We talk about Jesus, or St Issa who is said to have travelled to India during his 18 missing years in the bible and my personal favourite topic, the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Gospels. Ashley is Protestant and we compare it with my Catholic background, which is more concerned with saints, Mother Mary and communion. In our limited knowledge of Judaism and Islam, we draw together the many similarities between the religious icons that dominate the major religions and ultimately come to the same conclusion; whether you call it tomato sauce, or ketchup it is essentially the same condiment.

Day 126 – the Taj Mahal

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We wake up early to get to the Taj Mahal before the tourist crowd. We are lucky to be here in the middle of the off-season so it is extremely quiet and we actually get photos of each other standing alone in front of the building. It is not too hot as the sun slowly rises around the four pillars and the marble glitters. It is so stunning. The inlay of black onyx, carnelian, mother of pearl, tiger’s eye, jasper, bloodstone and lapis lazuli are in intricate floral designs and verses from the Qu’uran.

After breakfast we go to see the Red Fort, which was a palace and then later a prison for Emperor Shah Jahan. As we walk through with the guide, my imagination does me the favour of filling the courtyards with bustling courtiers in sheer veils, jewel encrusted lords and politically weighted glances. I am not listening to a word the guide is saying. I snap back to attention but it is getting really hot and it is only 10.30.

We are taken to see some workshops where local artisans embroider velvet with silk and carve intricate marble and gemstone tables, plates and statues of gods and elephants, but by mid-afternoon we just go back to the hotel and its swimming pool. I start doing laps and realise how much I miss the ocean. I haven’t been immersed in water since Bali. Over a month. That is probably the longest I have gone without a salt-water fix. Within minutes my breath, strokes and mind find simple rhythm and I feel my mind return to the same focus and meditative state I used to get when I swam across the bay at Malabar. I finally get tired and get out to sit by the pool and read but the flies are driving me insane in the thick, hot air. I can’t read so I sit and stare at the bright blue water. I’m suddenly overcome with the knowledge that this spiritual path in starting to overtake everything else in my life. Suddenly, nothing else seems as important. Everything has been sacrificed for this journey to enlightenment; my relationship, my physical home, my university degree… Everything has just dissolved in this burning fire of desire for union with the divine truth that is the universe. Love has gone from the external as it now comes from deep within, money has become a means to walk the physical path in search of that consciousness, family and friends are either either supportive of my decisions or secretly think I’m crazy and yet I have never felt more alive, more close to that truth and more aware of my essential nature that permeates all illusion. After last night’s ‘supermoon’ I feel driven to pursue this spiritual passion has gone from a flickering candle to a raging inferno, illuminating my one true path.

Day 100 to Day 106 of the Self Transformation Program, Sadhana Mandir Trust, Rishikesh, India

Day 100 – the descending force

In meditation last night, I experienced a strange feeling of velocity, as though everything inside of me is being pulled upwards. It is so profound, I can’t even describe. We are told to let go of such experiences as they can lead to expectations and false delusions. Today, Rafiki tells us that when you reach the stage of meditation, all the steps of asana (postures), pranayama (breathing and prana regulation), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), and dharana (concentration) all fall away and it becomes effortless. The ascending and descending forces start to work and it is as though the divine reaches down and pulls you up, to home.

After dinner last night, we sang Kirtan lead by Radha who sings classical Indian song. Her beautiful warbling voice filled the room and while it was not Pratyahara, since music uses the senses rather than withdrawing them, it still feels like the sound of the divine. After Kirtan, we snuck up onto the roof to listen to John play his Yukalele and have a little bit of a sing along. We were like naughty children and at 9.30pm we had to retreat to bed, knowing we need to be awake early. This course is pretty intense- like spiritual boot camp. A part of me can’t wait to sleep in, but another part of me knows that this is a long term commitment and that I could keep up this routine forever. I just need the Sankalpa Shakti- the determination, the power to will and the one pointed focus.

 

Day 101 – Swaha, letting go into the river

I find a letter today that I wrote at the beginning of the year. The person it was for refused to read it, so I never threw it away. I guess I felt like I wasn’t being heard and that whatever was in the letter must be important. Without reading it, I take it down to the Ganga. Standing in ankle deep cool water that flows from the Himalayas, I easily tear up the pages into small pieces. I let go, release the attachment that is associated with it and let go of the past. In class, we constantly check our footprints on the yoga mat. The yoga mat is the Guru and it shows exactly how you use your feet. When we step onto the mat we always step forward, never backwards, never stepping into the past grooves. As I release the pieces of paper into the water and watch the current float them away, I can feel the cool energy of the river creeping up my legs. Silently, I chant swaha, which is the offering into the fire, the burning of past karmas and samskaras. The hand motions from the stomach and opens out, almost like vomiting up the excessive emotions. For the first time in a few nights, this person who refused to read what I wrote is not in my dreams.

As CS Lewis wrote, ‘There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.’

 

Day 102 – ants in the pants

Lying down for systematic relaxation, I become aware of an ant crawling on my collarbone. I try to ignore it, hoping that it moves onto my clothing, but I can’t focus and I am missing key points in the relaxation. I reach up and scratch at it quickly. After a few seconds I can feel more on my feet and legs. I rub my legs together but they don’t go away. I can feel a whole line of them crawling up my stomach so, frustrated, finally I sit up and lift up my shirt to see… nothing. There are no ants. Suddenly I am panicking. If there are no ants, then I must be hallucinating? What is going on? I can feel them! I am sure of it. I keep moving, twitching and scratching at my legs and stomach. Then they are all up my shirt, just tiny ones marching in lines across my body. When the relaxation finally ends, I sit up and look all over the mat and in my clothes. Not one ant.

Later, in theory class, Rafiki asks if we have anything to share but I keep quiet. I don’t need everyone thinking I am loopy. I can ask him about the ants later. He is talking and notices me scratching my arm. He starts laughing and yells, “Stop scratching! Be here NOW! What, you think those were really ants biting you all over? Hahaha! I nearly laughed my head off! You just missed an important step in the process!” Suddenly three other people pipe up that they also experienced the ants crawling or biting or feelings of energy shooting all over the body. I say, “Well I am glad it is funny, but I am worried that I was hallucinating!” He says I was. He won’t tell me why, but says to just let it go. Let go, let god, let guru.

 

Day 103 – thoughts are people

I am walking the path along the beautiful river Ganges when I see a group of monkeys foraging in the dry scrub to my right. They seem content enough and ignore me, so I continue to walk. I see a baby ahead but its mother isn’t bothered since I am keeping my distance. What I don’t see is the big male sitting to my left. By the time I see him, he is running towards me with his finger in between his bared teeth in an open threat. I stop and for a moment I think ‘fight’ but realise my only weapon would be my rubber sandal so I opt for ‘flight’ and run back a few metres. He sits down in the middle of the path and stares at me, making sure that I don’t come closer. I stand and watch him, laughing. This is just too symbolic. In yoga, the mind is often referred to as the ‘Monkey Mind’ and Swami Rama says the mind is a ‘drunken monkey’. Here I am, on the path and before me is an angry monkey, feeling threatened. As I watch him, he opens his legs and starts scratching himself. He probably isn’t itchy; he is making a point. Eventually he gets distracted and wonders away and I am free to pass.

The people in my mind are running amok and it is distracting me from meditation. During relaxation I lose focus entirely and my imagination takes over the reigns when I am supposed to be melting into the floor. I can’t sleep, I can’t focus on eating and I can’t even make sense of the thoughts and people and people and thoughts. When thoughts come up in meditation, we say neti, which means ‘not this’. It has worked like a dam and now all those thoughts are flooding through, outraged at being held back. These people are attachments; they create bondage and misery instead of peace, harmony and bliss. Since blocking them makes no sense, I allow them to come through. I once again find myself at the Ganga with a piece of bottle brush- each red fibre of the bush flower represents an attachment, a person, a thought that is limiting my path and I let it go. Each day, I say my Sankalpa Shakti at least 4 times before meditation. It is the intention, the determination to practice.

I now take another step on the path towards enlightenment. Nothing and nobody can take me from this path. Least of all and especially not myself or my mind.

In the evening, I can’t sleep and so I sit up to write a list of unfulfilled desires. We are taught to practice santosh, contentment, so that we no are longer slaves to our unfulfilled desires. However, it is acknowledged that certain desires must be fulfilled so that one can feel contentment. One need not renounce the world, but rather live in it and above it, unaffected by events. My list is not long and I can’t help but add a few at the bottom just so that I can cross them out. This is a kind of encouragement. Like reminding myself how easy it is to fulfil desires.

Go to India. CHECK!

 

Day 104 – running in the rain

Pria, John and I sneak off to my room with the Yukalele and a small parcel wrapped in tissue. My neighbour managed to sneak in some contraband and we feel like naughty children. Behind the closed doors, we open up the tissue to reveal the trademark purple wrapping and can’t decide which one to open first- dairy milk or fruit n’ nut. Pria says she thought this was Indian chocolate, but I thought it was Australian chocolate but we are corrected by John, the Englishman, haughtily tells us that Cadbury is an English company. However, since both countries were part of the British Empire, Cadbury is sold there too. It is gone far too quickly, so we indulge in breaking the other rule- the rule of santaya. Here at the ashram, we are told to remain silent as it is the only truth. We are supposed to be having quiet time right now but being the three youngest means we are suffering from conversation deprivation so we sit and chat for two hours. Our teacher is an omniscient presence in this ashram and he has thrown some disapproving looks our way lately when talking about the importance of silence.

Although summer was here a couple of days ago, the weather has turned and the wind, cold and rain is making my Vattic bones ache. Halfway through the morning, I have been thinking a lot about how much practice we have to fit in every morning. I need six hours sleep, but at this rate I wake up at 3.45am! And lately I have been running after breakfast, instead of at dawn. I start to stress over all the things to do every morning when I decide to go for a run to clear my head. The rain parts for enough time for me to borrow a rain jacket from Pria but by the time I am up on the road, the light sprinkle has become a steady drizzle. I am jogging at a slow trot. We have been told to practice with a breath ratio of 2:1 when doing dynamic movements so asana, meditation preparation, walking and jogging especially means exhale for 10, inhale for 5. This detoxes the system and makes sure that the carbonic acid is being removed from the lungs so that lactic acid can’t build up. It also means that once I get used to the rhythm and pace of exhaling for ten steps and inhaling for five steps, I can jog for much longer. I love to jog but I gave up a few years ago because I wasn’t seeing any improvement. With this new method of breathing I can feel my endurance increasing and my lungs expanding. The rain is beating down on me, but I could keep on going. I have to stop because it is almost time for class and I am soaking wet. I slow down to a walk and turn my face up to the sky. My eyes closed, I lift my arms up and I can see bright orange/yellow light radiating up to the heavens all around me, like it is going to lift me up to another plane…. Like something out of Star Trek. That descending /ascending force again? Samadhi through running in the rain, reaching a new level of endurance… Apparently it is endorphins, and the neuro-chemical reaction of the blood vessels stimulated through nostril breathing but enough meaning making. It feels good.

On the way back, the rain has gotten heavier and my pants are falling down, heavy with water. I decide to sprint the last few metres but suddenly I step on something sharp. It is so sharp, I am sure it has pierced the thin sole of my runners but I can’t be angry; only grateful at the reminder to stay grounded.

 

Day 105 – the story of the King and the Jin

This story was a Swami Rama story, as told to me by our teacher and guide at the Sadhana Mandir Trust. Poetic licence has been taken in the retelling of this story…

Once upon a time, in a Kingdom far away, a festival was being held. This festival was full of music, bright colours, dancers, fire breathers and small stalls selling anything and everything a person could want. In one small, unnamed stall sat an old man who had only one item to sell. It was a very small, very unremarkable little wooden box. People would stop to enquire about this mysterious box, but the old man would tell them it was too expensive. No matter how much they offered to pay, the old man would say, “I am sorry but you can not afford this.”

The King and his Queen entered this colourful festival. After watching some performers, the Queen wanted to go shopping. The King suggested they go through the stalls systematically but the Queen was impatient. She spotted this tiny stall with the box that nobody could afford and she dragged the King straight over.

“I want this wooden box, my King. Please get it for me. I must have it to show all my friends when they come over tomorrow.” The King was reluctant but, being a good man, he wanted to please his wife so he approached the old man and asked the price of this small, unremarkable, box. The old man shook his head,

“I am sorry, my Lord, but this box is not for you,” the old man said.

“I can afford it, I assure you so please name your price,” said the King.

“You misunderstand me, sire. It is not a matter of price. I cannot sell this item to just anybody. It must go to one who can handle its contents,” insisted the old man.

“Whatever do you mean? I am the King! I am sure I can handle whatever small and ordinary item might be inside such a container.”

The old man sighed. Knowing the King to be wise, he finally agreed to give him the box, however he did not let the King pay.

“I cannot take any money from you, my Lord. Only promise me this; that you will never, ever, under any circumstances, open this box.”

“Yes, yes, whatever. As long as it is in my care, it shall remain unopened.” The King promised this, forgetting that it would not always be in his care. Feeling that the old man was good at heart, he went away, instructing his Prime Minister to make sure that the old man and his family would be taken care of for the rest of their lives in the kingdom.

Emerging from the market stall, the Queen quickly snatched the box and marched straight back to the castle.

“Don’t you want to do some more shopping?” Asked the King.

“No, no. I have what I want. You go on, I am going home.” The Queen hurried away.

The King knew his wife very well, so he followed her up to their room where he found her excitedly hovering over the box.

“Now, remember we aren’t to open this ugly little box,” the King warned.

“Oh don’t be an old fool. That man was nothing more than a swindler. He would have given you this damn thing; you didn’t need to go and give him a house!” The Queen, being stubborn and excitable, could not wait any longer so before the King could reach her side, she opened the tiny, unexceptional and unsightly little box.

All of a sudden the box exploded in a huge cloud of ancient dust and from within the haze emerged an enormous Jin with terrifying, glowing red eyes and skin blacker than the moonless night. It hovered over the royal couple, drooling ethereal saliva and smiling a wicked grin, it folded its enormous bulging arms over its bare chest.

“At your service, Master.” He growled.

The Queen stared open mouthed and then her eyes rolled back into her head as she fainted and collapsed in a heap on the floor. The King, in his shock, did little to help his incapacitated wife.

The Jin continued, “Your wish is my command. Only tell me what it is that you want and I shall complete any task you set for me. The only condition to this is that you never stop. The moment you have no work for me, I will be forced to eat you up!”

And so the King and Queen thought they were very lucky. Despite the hideous appearance of their new acquisition, he performed remarkably well and brought them anything they needed. This went along fine until a few years later, when they realised that their whole castle was full of useless things. They couldn’t possibly ask the Jin for anything else and they realised that they would seen be eaten alive by their own monster if they didn’t think of something. The King consulted his very wise Prime Minister who assured the King that he would solve the problem. So the King and Queen left the Prime Minister in charge, instructing the Jin to take his orders from the Minister until they return. They left in haste, thinking that the Minister would surely be eaten before long.

The Prime Minister, however, had an idea. He approached the Jin and said, “Please fetch me the longest and strongest piece of bamboo in the entire world.” The Jin disappeared but within a few hours was back from the humid jungle of Sumatra with the longest and strongest bamboo in the world. The Prime Minister was impressed.

“Ok, Jin. Now put this bamboo in the ground in such a way that it can not be moved, bent or broken.”

The Jin shoved the stick hard into the earth and no matter how much it was flicked, hacked or pushed, it indeed could be moved by no force.

“Now,” said the Prime Minister, “Listen carefully, Jin. This part is important. I need you to run up and down the bamboo. Do not stop until I come and tell you to stop!”

The bamboo is the spine.

The Jin is the mind.

It is running and breathing.

As long as the mind is focused on the breath running up and down the spine, it cannot eat us alive.

 

Day 106 – The Great Escape

Over breakfast I try not to look at the others. As soon as we finish eating, John, Pria and I hurry to get dressed. We feel like spies trying to exit the ashram separately so as not to arouse suspicion. As I walk out, the manager sees me and says, “Holiday today!” and I say, “shh, we are escaping!” to which he only laughs. After two weeks of silence, mindful conscious awareness and the sheltered life of the ashram, the world outside is a bombardment of noise, colour, movement, smells and velocity. We catch the rickshaw to the market and then change to go up to Lakshman Julle. All we talk about is all the amazing food we are going to eat. First stop is an iced coffee accompanied by baked cheese-cake and a chocolate ball. John has to stand still as his eyes cross over from a sugar overdose. We join the throng of people crossing the bridge and are lucky enough to find a gap where we can stop to take photos.

The whole purpose of this outing was so that I could get some clothes- it has been really cold the past couple of days and I only brought summer clothes so I need some leggings and a jumper. Of course, now that I am actually shopping, it has become boiling hot again! No doubt this weather will stay hot for the rest of my time in India, rendering my purchases redundant. Either way, my lower mind is excited to be shopping and I have to remind myself that I still have a lot of moving around in India before I can start filling my bags with incense and books.

I am dying to eat some street food but Pria talks me out of it. The samosas look greasy and dirty and delicious. After all, I don’t feel like I am truly in a country until I eat some dirty street food and make myself extremely ill.

Crossing back over the thin bridge, I can feel it swaying beneath our feet. Monkeys are perched along the cables, screeching at the crowd. Children with wide dark eyes, a black kohl marking in the centre of the forehead to keep the evil spirits away and completely shaven heads stare up at the creatures calmly while the parents nervously move away. In a sudden surge, we are pressed up against the cables and metal grates of the bridge and look around the oncoming motorbike to see an enormous bull standing in the metre-wide walkway. I am starting to believe that these cows aren’t just wondering around aimlessly. For a cow to join a huge crowd of people and get onto this narrow bridge implies that he must have business on the other side.

We have missed lunch at the ashram but find a small restaurant overlooking the river where we get dosas and lassis. We may be silent as we eat but it is because we are so busy enjoying the food. We don’t eat as slowly as we know we should, but the dosa just tastes too good! We know we will arrive back later than expected to watch the afternoon Swami Rama lecture DVD, but we have bought chocolate to supplement our lateness. Chocolate fixes everything.

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Day 73- seeing dragonflies, a symbol of change and self-realisation

I see dragonflies all day. I haven’t seen one in a long time, but they have always appeared at significant moments in my life. I sit and meditate outside, staring at the pool where the dragonfly skips and moves across the water. Their erratic movements are fascinating and graceful and amazingly efficient.  They only flap their wings 30 times a minute. Compared to houseflies which flap 1000 times per minute. I love the veiny art of their wings and their iridescent shine. Apparently that iridescence means the end of self-created illusions and the clarity to see the reality of life.

Dragonfly-site.com says that the dragonfly is a symbol of change and self-realisation:

“…and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life. The traditional association of Dragonflies with water also gives rise to this meaning to this amazing insect. The Dragonfly’s scurrying flight across water represents an act of going beyond what’s on the surface and looking into the deeper implications and aspects of life.”

Surprised that my morning meditation isn’t hindered by my excitement, I finish off my coffee and get ready to leave. I am practically jumping out of my skin as I go to meet the girls, Ange and Rosie. When I run into their hotel room diving into some long-awaited Embraces, I am hit with the blast of air-conditioning and soon I am shivering. I realise that once again I am acclimatised to the tropics and prefer the stifling heat to being cold. Within minutes I am already doubled over with the kind of laughter that only comes from your best girlfriends. I realise how long it has been since I have been surrounded by this much oestrogen! Being around Andrew and his mates in Mexico, in patriarchal Padang and the humming bloke-predominant society of Bali, I have seriously missed hanging out the girls. Although I do find Andrew and his mates easy to be around, eventually I always need to speak to somebody with a uterus! Rosie doesn’t want me to shave my head, so we make a deal. If Embrace can raise more money than I can, then I will keep my hair. (This is a pretty big bet, since the website donations are still going a bit slow and I really want to shave my head, so again I implore you, reader, to please make a donation for this worthy cause!) As we catch up on a million missed moments, shopping in Seminyak, the words “that’s hot” fly around way too many times and we finally end up back in Legian, exhausted from the heat. Rosie is even more exhausted from trying to work out the exchange rate and Ange looks like she is going to hit me with the hardest part of her body (her head) if I point out another shop for Rosie again. As Rose finds a mirror-ball shaped phallus, a young local girl reaches out and touches Ange’s breast, saying “Hey, you have nice boob!” and aside from the hilarity of the comment, it is always nice when a sister opts for kindness over jealousy and offers a compliment instead of a criticism.

As I walk past a shoe shop, I see another dragonfly hovering above some sandals. I silently tell the dragonfly that I promise I will heed its message and give it a silent prayer of thank you for visiting me again.

The three of us get a Balinese massage back at their hotel (thank you, ladies!) and then sit in the hydro spa, getting massaged by streams of jets while the rain pours down all over Bali. Between the dragonflies and the water, I can only guess that today, the last day of the Mexihka calendar, there is massive change happening throughout the world and especially in my life. I walk through the rain, allowing the heavy downpour to soak me through. After all, as long as I stay out of my friends’ hotel room, it is still warm and balmy in the island of the gods.