Sunday, July 11, 2010
I have been graced and deeply blessed with the unconditional love of SparkFriends who have opened up their homes and hearts to me...first Rebecca; then in 2009 Stephanie and Gina; bringing in 2010, Kathy and Vivian.
And now this summer:
Tracey, who welcomed me into her home and life in an incredibly loving and expansive way. Amazing.
And SUSANNAH31, where I'm currently enjoying the beauty of the Jersey Shore, her generous hospitality and the sweet communion of women friends, who would seemingly have known each other for many moons.
Sue and the others have accepted me and opened themselves to me without asking for anything in return. In EACH case I feel like we've known each other for years. The level of connection is deep and strong...and I feel the bonds of sisterhood growing. Stephanie gave me The Elegant Gathering of White Snows, a novel that talks beautifully about sisterhood...and I've been telling all my close women friends to read it.
Locust Lake State Park, PA, where pennyAn came to meet me
At Lew's recommendation, Sue and I went to Jim Thorpe, a fascinating PA town. This beautiful stone church was awe-inspiring.
Sue and I were both struck by its beauty
Today Sue and I spent time on the beach walking and exploring the birds at the preserve next to the beach.
At the end of this picture-perfect summer day and with near-overwhelming feelings of gratitude and grace, I can think of no more fitting tribute than this Mary Oliver piece, "lifting me...into the world's unspeakable kindness":
ONE HUNDRED WHITE-SIDED DOLPHINS ON A SUMMER DAY
galloping in the pitch
of the waves, in the pearly
fields of the sea,
they leap toward us,
they rise, sparkling, and vanish, and rise sparkling,
they breathe little clouds of mist, they lift perpetual smile,
they slap their tails on the waves, grandmothers and grandfathers
enjoying the old jokes,
they circle around us,
they swim with us -
a hundred white-sided dolphins
on a summer day,
each one, as God himself
could not appear more acceptable
a hundred times,
in a body blue and black threading through
the sea foam,
and lifting himself up from the opened
tents of the waves on his fishtail,
with the moon of his eye
into my heart,
and find there
pure, sudden, steep, sharp, painful
that falls -
I don't know - either
or the pale, bearable hand
on my neck,
from the boat's plain plank seat
into the world's
It is my sixty-third summer on earth
and, for a moment, I have almost vanished
into the body of the dolphin,
into the moon-eye of God,
into the white fan that lies at the bottom of the sea
that ever was, or ever will be,
supple, wild, rising on flank or fishtail -
singing or whistling or breathing damply through blowhole
at top of head. Then, in our little boat, the dolphins suddenly gone,
we sailed on through the brisk, cheerful day.
~ Mary Oliver ~
(What Do We Know?)
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Rear view: Harmony * Coexist * Yogaville
Packin' up, gettin' ready to leave this lovely little home
This final leg of the trip is around 3000 miles (including Montreal, which I may eliminate, reducing the total by around 300 miles), which will mean that the total mileage for Maha's Magical Mystery Tour 2010 will be over 6000!!!
By *sticking to my guns* and not driving more than four hours or about 200 miles per day (yep that's right; I'm using 45mph as my gage), I need about two weeks for the actual journey.
I have a total of five weeks available before fall semester begins. That means I have three weeks for enjoying the sights and visiting friends...and lots of bicycling.
I like that!
Oh yeah...and Thursday SUSANNAH31 and I are camping at Locust Lake State Park, PA, LEWISH11's park!!!
Monday, July 05, 2010
Gazing up on a straight line while standing at LOTUS (Light of Truth Universal Shrine) you first see Chidambaram (shown in my last blog -- www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=3388345 ), then continuing up that visual line, at the very top of the hill is Kailash, where the amazing brass image of Shiva Nataraj is housed. This architectural format follows the classical Vastu Shastra system of design.
A close-up of he 6' Shiva Nataraj (dancing Shiva)
Shiva Nataraj can be seen inside of Kailash
Looking down at the top of Chidambaram and then below that at LOTUS, from the Kailash vantage point
SONNETS TO ORPHEUS, PART TWO, XXIX
Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~
(In Praise of Mortality, translated and edited by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)
My second stay this summer at my spiritual home is drawing to a close. Ahhhhhhhhh. Continuing the breathing that makes more space around me, moving on to strange new darkness, to new crossroads, and the constant of the loneliness of the road...here are my travel plans as they are currently unfolding.
1. I LEAVE THE ASHRAM (AGAIN) BRIGHT-AND-EARLY THURSDAY MORNING JULY 8, spending the first night at Pennsylvania's Locust Lake State Park, a pajama party with PENNYAN! SFriend Lew is the park director, so we'd better get some extra special treatment, huh!
2. Friday I head NE, crossing the Hudson River to the HR Valley and Mt. Kisco to visit dear old friends from Ecuador, about an hr. N of NYC, leaving by the morning of July 14, heading to the Sufi retreat.
3. N to New Lebanon in the Berkshires, which sits right next to MA, for a silent retreat with Pir Zia Inayat Khan, head of the Sufi Order on July 15-18, hoping to rendezvous with Azimat there!!!
4. Continue N to visit SFriend Francesca at Lake Champlain in the Adirondacks, which sits next to VT...and go kayaking -- WHEE!!! While there we hope to rendezvous with Kathleen (OkeyDokey) in Burlington, VT. There's a wonderful bike path there, and Francesca are both taking our Trek's on the ferry!
5. Perhaps N to Montreal, never having been there -- perhaps I'll take a class at the Integral Yoga Center!
6. Or else directly to Alexandria Bay in the 1000 Islands Region of the St. Lawrence Seaway. I've been advised there's a MUST DO 4-hr. boat tour of the islands whle I'm there.
7. S into the Fingerlakes area in the Catskills, beginning with Ithaca and Cornell University and then W, camping and bicycling my way through them
8. W to Niagara Falls, especially to the Canadian side. There's another MUST DO boat ride, the Maid of the Mist.
9. SW through OH to Yellow Springs and Antioch College, hoping to visit SFriends there
10. SW to my "stompin' grounds" Conway (central AR) to get ready for the fall semester! Gotta' be there by around August 13.
There's always "the best laid plans" aspect of the travel process but, in any case, these are my present intentions.
And now I'm going to immerse myself in this amazing day!
Thursday, July 01, 2010
A perfect lotus flower from the garden of Conway friend Siaw Khian (Buddhist, originally from Malaysia), who also photographed it.
LIVE LIKE A LOTUS IN THE WATER
"The lotus is considered to he a very holy and divine flower. Not just because of its beauty, hut also because of its qualities. A lotus flower grows in very shallow water, usually in a muddy area. Though it comes out of the mud and mire, it rises as a beautiful flower that lives in the water without being affected by it. The lotus flower is always given as an example for one who wants to live spiritually in the world. It is said, 'Live like a lotus in the water.' The lotus leaf is right in the water, hut it's never moistened by the water When you pick it up, it's completely dry. It never gets wet. If you throw a little water over it, the water will roll off and scatter around like pearls.
"A person should live like the lotus, being in the world but not affected by it. You should always express your natural beauty, though you may grow in a dirty place. Nothing from outside should affect you.
"The lotus is a symbol of love and devotion also. If you ever see the Goddesses Lakshmi or Saraswati you would see that they're standing on a lotus. Wherever Lord Buddha placed his foot, a lotus appeared to hold it. The feet of a holy person are called the 'lotus feet.'
"The lotus flower turns its head towards the sun always. That means it always turns towards the light; it receives the light constantly. So you can say it's an ever-enlightened flower.
"Om Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi"
-- Sri Swami Satchidananda
Catching a quick shot of an amazing sunset night-before-last as we left Chidambaram Temple, after cleaning there
Yesterday a beloved swami, Sri Maruthachalam, a dear friend of Swami Satchidananda from the same area of southern India, was hosted for lunch at Yaeko's home. She is the 86-year old artist-mother of Swami Dayananda (who invited me to be here for these festivities). I am staying on Yaeko's property.
62-yr. old Dayananda(who looks 32-yr. old!!!) is ALWAYS on the move. Such a beautiful soul and such and inspiration to me!
The "tip of the iceburg" of Yaeko's work
86-yr. old Yaeko and her friend Turtle, as the Native American ashram member is known.
Yaeko garlanding the arriving guest, Swami Maruthachalam, head of the Perur Temple in Coimbuture, south India.
The *hostesses-with-the-mostestesses* and the swami
There were 35 guests for lunch, and four of us completed all the preparations, and cleaned up. Of course we also partook in the delicious meal!
This morning Swami Maruthachalam will perform a puja (worship service) at Chidambaram above the LOTUS temple here at the ashram, where he performed ceremonies in 2002 after Swami Satchidananda left the body.
I will soon have to decide whether to continue here at the ashram through Guru Poonima (a celebration of the guru) or to travel to upstate New York to attend a silent retreat with Pir Zia Inayat Khan, a revered teacher and the head of Sufi Order International.
I attended a retreat many moons ago in California with his father, Pir Vilayat, who was then head of the Order. Darshan (being in the presence) with spiritual masters carries a very special blessing, and I would ALSO be blessed with the presence of AZIMAT(!!!), a long-time student who will be attending.
Also, if I went north I MIGHT have the opportunity to meet other wonderful friends and SparkPeople such as PennyAn, and Francesca and Azimat! Not to mention the possibility of seeing Niagara Falls!
Hmmmm...decisions! DECISIONS!!! What say ye, oh wise and perceptive SparkFriends???
Better to "cool my heels" and remain in my spiritual home, soaking up the practices and preparing to return to school in the fall...OR...to continue the summer odyssey, traveling new paths, meeting new adventures head-on, and having the great honor of encountering Pir Zia?
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
OK, so I'm back at the ashram, I had a luxurious night's sleep in this lovely well-appointed little house that I've been gifted with "as long as I wish to be here", I'm sipping my second cup of coffee, enjoying wi-fi(!), enjoying the welcoming bird symphony, looking out the window at my Kurmavatara...and beyond to this wooded beauty that surrounds the ashram and wondering....
One of my favorite poets, Wislawa Szymborska, has captured my anxiety about the "no rewind," "life is what happens while you're waiting for life to happen" nature of this incarnation. I do see the sense in the concept of reincarnation and many masters say that having a human birth is a rare and precious gift. The obvious response to that is to live each moment mindfully, treating each day as a gift, not wasting a moment of this gift.
It's a reflection that has come to me frequently during the long hours of my solitude on this summer journey...and in this life in general. Back here at the ashram, where the inner work is BOLD AND HIGHLIGHTED, I consider long-and-hard once again, as Mary Oliver says, "what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?":
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.
I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it's mine. I can't exchange it.
I have to guess on the spot
just what this play's all about.
Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can't conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.
Words and impulses you can't take back,
stars you'll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run ?
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.
If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven't seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn't even clear my throat offstage).
You'd be wrong to think that it's just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I'm standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there's no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I've done.
~ Wislawa Szymborska ~
(Poems New and Collected 1957-1997,
trans. S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh)
LOTUS = Light of Truth Universal Shrine at Satchidananda Ashram...just down the road, a favorite place for noon meditation.
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