The poet Frank Watson has given humanity a gift, a collection of poems entitled In the Dark, Soft Earth: Poetry of Love, Nature, Spirituality, and Dreams.
Book One is called “Within the Weeping Woods.” Each poem, very short, conjures the spirit of the nature haiku. Here, we are offered a chance to forest bathe the mind. Reading these poems is a wilderness adventure that tangles up desire, and I feel myself hearing my heart beat inside the forest and beneath its soil. This inner forest is dense with secret glades in which a reader can hide within forest Silence. There is intimacy but also distance that soothes. Though many scenes revealed here are absolutely terrifying, the language is so stunning that terror is totally erased by beauty. We become like the fool who, “entranced / by the beauty of a rose / he falls off a cliff / blown only by the gentle breeze.” Here, terrifying things are delivered gently. Also, it’s remarkable the way each stanza feels natural and not crafted, as if words simply blew in through the poet’s heart on the breeze. Effortless poetry! Ah!
The poems in this collection can also create a sense of being a speck of dust, traveling free upon the wind and upon the wind’s whims; can I be so quiet, content, and unnoticed, even as I am thrust upon violent storms, even as I am settled home, longing we meet in a crowded jazz club? I read the collection while sitting under this tree in my front yard. I hear jazz music through the kitchen’s open window. Crows laugh. Dogs bark. Insects crawl nearby, and the wind is moving the trees. I notice nature with nuanced perception while I am reading Watson’s poems. This is reason enough to give this book a read and to read it again. I love the mood each poem evokes in me, like I am making love to the Mystery. It reminds me also of time I have spent sitting in dark temples, and one distant memory of practicing “Grave Meditation” with yogis in the Himalayas.
This particular poem welcomes the reader to witness a moment where the she of the poem confronts a secret she has been keeping from herself. She realizes an ugly truth, an inner truth that she had tried to ignore or suppress; yet, she had also stored it away in her treasure box. What a provocative juxtaposition! Then, an image arises in a simple phrase that hints at mischief, but it’s the sound of the words that is more important than their meaning: “sunlight broken / into a thousand little sins.” Then, the best part of the poem, is that the speaker, the I, the narrator of the poem, is but an invisible speck, some kind of micro-organism, somehow bewitched and floating “between the eons of her eyelashes.” This is an incredible shift in perspective. As a reader proceeding through a few short phrases, I have even forgotten to wonder what is the secret in the treasure box because I am now enraptured by the wonder about myself as dwelling between the eons of her eyelashes, contemplating myself as a floating micro-organism. Whoever “she” is in this poem, she is of goddess dimensions, and I am filled with awe.
This is just one poem from this collection. Every poem takes the reader on vast journeys through perception. Yet, the poems are immaculately short, distilled moments that trigger ancient contemplation. Spiritual awakening gets slammed together with lots of kissing of the Earth, kissing of moonlit waters, even kissing of the dead. The whole experience satisfies Spirit and sense perception all at once. And the Spirit world and the sensual world can be one, and this is absolutely OKAY, dear yogi! Plus, for viewing pleasure, the book contains artwork by a variety of masters, ranging from Keido Fukushima to Wassily Kandinsky, alongside the poems these works inspired in Watson.
The collection is divided into ten “Books.” Each book has its own title, such as “Between Time and Space,” “The Percussion Mind,” and “Stories Before I Sleep.” The ideas and moods that these titles provoke invite me into contemplative space. I sit quietly, and I am content. That’s it!
While there are weeping woods, there is also jazz. And these haiku-like poems create a sense that the primal cries before humanity, with Earth always expressing herself in infinite variety, are not separate from the contemporary moans of urban music. We enter a consciousness where desire is a dream state, and I find myself longing to reunite with my Lover and give him the world’s last drop of rain, or the raven moon, or a road he may travel that will never end. I imagine the I of the poem to be my happy lover telling me that he lives his life in a butterfly’s dream. He reminds me of the Taoist adept, Zhuangze: keep life weightless. I wish I could say this to someone: if I am in your butterfly dream, may I be perceived as the nectar?
Finally, with this book, I find myself retreating again to the yogi cave within me and welcoming a gang of midnight philosophers to help me light the One Heart Fire at the hour when all across the globe, each has agreed to light his own lamp. If we build up enough nerve, we’ll all whisper: “We know how to guide the stranded souls. Look, over here! See how there is so very little distinction between what is a human form and what is Earth form? Be guided by the rhyme in twilight! See poems pouring tea for the Haiku that breaks the rules. Understand that which feels familiar is a bridge to mischief! Let’s cross together!”
In the poem “apparition,” there is a broken violin and some shapeless wonder that is rolling from one end of the world to another. Is it the poet that kisses Earth and moonlit waters and sunflowers? Or is it that the poet has become the foot or the lightbeam or the raindrop that touches the forest floor, the lake’s surface, or the flower’s petal? I have got to remember to be grateful for these poems that give me a fleeting chance to release my attachment to this human body. Be a drop of rain. Be a moon beam. Be a bear paw. And once I become these things, what does it feel like to touch flowers, lakes, and dirt?
who am I?
Who is the poet? He is “neither man / nor phantom / between the worlds.” Who am I? I ask again as I re-emerge from the dream of reading this collection. I stand up from sitting beneath this tree, and standing up after having read this book is the realization that this was not a dream. This deep peace within me is the real deal.
Frank Watson’s In the Dark, Soft Earth is a beautiful book. I hope you will read it, and allow it to guide you to enjoy your Self, thoroughly.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek celebrates courage.
This new year’s day, I can think of no better way to spend quiet hours than imagining grandmother mountains, 1930s Kentucky hill people, slow hard life, and mule rides on Appalachian trails. There is wind and light and mud and water here. There are more bobcats than books. There is a lone Pack Horse librarian, her book-delivery route, and her blue skin. I appreciate every word in this book.
This novel has a loathsome villain: Ignorance.
One character who embodies ignorance in this book is Vester Frazier. He stalks, threatens, and tries to harm the protagonist, because her skin is blue. When I encounter a fictional character as ignorant as he is, I wonder: What would it take to transform the consciousness of this mean preacher? What would it take to heal every subtle and long-last injury caused by such Ignorance in our shared reality?
When any gentle reader encounters Ignorance in the form of a character like Vester Frazier, who is cruel, violent, and stupid, a reader observes his awful behavior, and we can regard him as the novel’s villain. We can sit at a safe distance from him and observe, as readers, from outside the story. As entertained readers, we cheer when he meets his fateful end. We feel a sense of good riddance, and let’s move on.
But what kind of imprint and energy does his character and situation stir in readers’ subconscious minds?
Let’s play. Let’s observe this character with a yogic oneness consciousness; let’s awaken to a sense of wonder over how to discover and destroy the Vester Frazier that may be lurking somewhere inside our own subconscious minds. As hard as it is to admit, everyone carries Vester Frazier inside him, her, them. Sure we do not all behave violently. But there are subtle ways we hurt each other all the time. We build institutions, clubs, and inner circles; we favor some beings and reject others; we include and exclude according to strange, unconscious whims. Our behaviors hurt one another … subconsciously. This is ignorance. To read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson as a yogi means to courageously confront and destroy the ignoramus within.
The protagonist of this novel is a traveling librarian named Cussy Mary Carter, and she has blue skin. Friend, have you heard of the gentle blue people of eastern Kentucky, descendants of Martin Frugate and Elizabeth Smith, who both carried a recessive gene for methemoglobinemia (a condition that turns the skin blue)? If you have not, as I had not until this book, they were real American folks who lived in the mountains of Kentucky during the 20th Century. Richardson’s novel is well-researched and blends her knowledge of the Blue community with her knowledge of President Roosevelt’s WPA Pack Horse Library program of the 1930s.
In this novel, the library patrons live in out-of-the-way mountain places. They are deeply grateful to receive book deliveries from the blue-skinned book woman. Though her father wants to see her wed, Cussy Mary doesn’t want to marry because she would lose her book delivery job. Also, in the hurt of her soul, she thinks who would marry a Blue?
Vester Frazier’s brother ends up marrying her, but he dies while raping her.
Consequently, Vester taunts her and threatens her, insisting she needs to attend his Christ’s Truth mountain church, a place she is really not welcome because she is blue.
What’s more, Vester is the type who insists folks don’t need books. He equates reading with devil worship. Most readers will identify with Cussy and the common folk as they cling to books to bring refreshment and imagination to the mind.
In many parts of the story, books are given equal importance to food as providing vital sustenance for the human soul.
Here another conflict arises, the dimension of ignorance in the way some religious folks fear books and book learning. This kind of fear of books reminds me of book burnings by Nazis and the cruel persecution of the Intelligentsia during China’s cultural revolution. My experience of books has made me grow extremely sensitive and careful regarding the fear of book learning; and I have even noticed where that same suspicion of books still exists among some popular yoga teachers today! No! It’s not good. Books relieve us of our ignorance and should be treated with proper dignity and honor. It is possible to be a realized yogi and at the same time love books. I’ve written this before, and I will write this again: books are not the problem; the problem is when people act superior over others or have overcome The Unknown just because they are book-learned; meanwhile too many beings suffer unfairly from all forms of illiteracy. It’s a situation that is just as urgent to heal as the need to balance the injustice between those who have food to eat while others go hungry.
What to do about ignorance and injustice?
Would ignorance of Verster Frazier be lessened by contemplating the blue skin phenomenon from a yogic perspective? In the yoga tradition, the highest sages and gods feel at home (depicted) in blue skin. The Lord of Yoga, Shiva, is portrayed as having blue skin. Others who are painted blue in iconography include, Krishna, Rama, and Baba Siri Chand, the elder son of Guru Nanak. These beings are represented with blue because blue is the color of vastness. All that which is vast beyond normal human perception radiates blue. For instance, when we look upon the ocean or sky with normal vision, we cannot behold the entire ocean or the entire sky. Thus to our normal perception, the ocean and sky appear blue. From this perspective, blue skin is not an ailment, a genetic disorder, or due to inbreeding, as conveyed by Wikipedia’s myopic explanation of the Kentucky Blue People. When viewed from a yogic perspective, blue-skinned mountain people radiate vastness of the beyond, embody the Great Mystery. Makes sense. They live in the mountains, and the mountain landscapes connect Earth to Ether. Their blue skin is an expression of the marriage of Earth and Ethers.
Of course, due to his circumstances, a character or hill man of Vester Frazier’s time and mentality would never have had the exposure to the yogic perspective. Even if he had known the possibility of contemplating Cussy Mary’s skin as holding the energy of cosmic consciousness, would he have dared to change his attitude? Makes me wonder, what kinds of phenomenon are out there today that we, in our collective ignorance, are not understanding fully in their potential due to our limits of time, space, mentality, and imagination? How about ways to fathom the human relationship to Earth and Cosmos in ways we are not considering?
Beyond simply reading this novel for entertainment or for an emotional experience, I want to confront its themes and heal the wounds it exposes in our collective subconscious.
For what it’s worth, I read this novel and accompanied my reading with practicing the meditation called Gutka Kriya.
This is a powerful and challenging meditation that uses the magic mantra (Ek Ong Kaar Sat Gur Prasaad Sat Gur Prasaad Ek Ong Kaar ) to reverse negative energy.
I set my intention like this: may all beings be free from ignorance and filled with the energy of the sage.
My reading enjoyment (about 31 minutes per day) and meditation practice (11 minutes per day) stretched over eleven days. If there are any real versions of Vester Frazier still out there, or if that energy lingers anywhere in the universe, as I know it does, please let that be destroyed in favor of more sagacious energy streaming through the human collective subconscious. This is my humble prayer.
This book helps me revitalize my lifelong appreciation for libraries, librarians, simple life of reading and loving books. For all the things that books give us, I simply bow my forehead to the Earth and give thanks and pray.
Beloved Creator of All That Is and Is Yet To Be, forgive all of humankind our deepest ignorance. May we begin to realize how backward and clumsy we are when it comes to observing Mother Nature. May we gain more clarity about the ways of Cosmic Consciousness. May we embrace true love for our Mother Earth. May divine wisdom pour in through the crown of our heads a luminous nectar of insight. May we bathe in this nectar of sensing the Undying Truth that lives deep within every living being!
In the English language, when someone is brokenhearted and feeling down, they describe this state of low energy and sadness as “being blue.” But the color blue to yogi is associated with occult powers, the Vishuddha Chakra, or the energy of the throat and voice. It is an energy that makes a yogi very contained within herself so that no matter what the circumstances are happening around her, within herself she is still absorbed in Divine Serenity, Cosmic Consciousness, Awareness of the Nectar in Repeating the Naam. While I write this post, it is a holiday season. So, for all those who are feeling blue over these holy days, may your lips turn up in smile to realize that being blue is actually a high spiritual attainment. So, go ahead and sulk. Be Blue! Praise Blue! Sing Wahe Guru!
Infinite gratitude to Kim Michele Richardson for writing an amazing story about a Blue-skinned librarian! I know readers in the Silent Book Club who thoroughly enjoyed this book and could not put it down. May that same feeling of joy that readers obtain through being absorbed in a good book be an Infinite Joy that expands and penetrates deep into the hearts of all beings everywhere. And if there are any yogis out there who feel restless in meditation and are having a hard time getting absorbed into their meditative state, may the sense of absorption that novel readers know expand into the yogi consciousness and give them any needed uplift. Peace to All! Cosmic Christ Guru Buddha God Consciousness is an all-inclusive, shared space. Let us meet there and be merry!
Elif Shafak’s novel 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World begins with The End.
Leila, the main character, is dead.
For 10 minutes and 38 seconds after her body is physically dead, Leila’s mind is still active. Shafak’s novel follows this mind activity. Though Leila was murdered in Istanbul, and her body is thrown in a dumpster, her mind’s activity guides a reader to witness a life injured by sexual abuse but redeemed by friendship; a reader reflects and feels awe what this life cut short by violent death can inspire in Leila’s friends, the sacrifices they make for her that benefit Leila beyond the grave.
What insights does Tequila Leila’s life and death offer a yogi?
Can reading this novel while practicing “Meditation to Go Through Death Into the Higher Levels Of Ether” (see below) refine the chitta (witnessing awareness)? Can this practice under this decade’s last full moon bring increased receptivity and sensitivity in the yogi? Can it bring honor to the dead? Can the practice of being aware of my own being while reading this novel elevate this consciousness in this living process here and now?
No doubt this novel helps inspire a reader’s compassion for Leila. What does that compassion feel like in my body while I read? When do I cry for her? When do I laugh with her? And I assume that any reader, not just a yogi, will feel the burning flame of inner anger when Leila’s father lies to her and when her uncle sexually abuses her. What discomfort am I feeling in my own body when imagining her body brutally murdered and abandoned in the trash? My hip hurts. My neck hurts. The kundalini energy in my spine has gone back to sleep for now. How is the Adi Shakti within me ever going to rise again while I am reading and witnessing yet another incident of the world’s cruel treatment of a beautiful woman?
This blog post explores a way to give full expression to compassion toward Tequila Leila and her friends in this novel. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to dedicate a meditation to these characters and also write about my respect for their souls. Though these characters are fictional creations of the author, their struggles are true to many real life people in the world today. This post attempts to broadcast an intention: Extend immense compassion, honor, and respect to real life people with the same struggles as Tequila Leila and her friends. Perhaps this creates a shelter, of sorts, for “it is in the shelter of each other that the people live” (Irish blessing).
Shafak’s novel is a reflection on a life in the context of the body’s death process. This is intriguing to read as a yogi because yogic teachings on death encourage a yoga practitioner to live every moment in heightened awareness so as to bring heightened awareness to the moments of death.
Yogis mostly choose when to discard the body, and do so in awareness. This is not suicide or euthanasia, but Maha Samadhi. A yogi knows how to die sitting in meditation with a smile on her face. She chooses to do this when life force is running out but before the body gets so radically feeble that it would need drugs to avoid pain. She chooses her time before the mind grows so radically demented that it cannot function in meditation. A yogi knows when and how to exit gracefully. Discard the body like discarding clothing.
Preparing for a conscious death involves being totally aware in every moment in life. So, how shall we be in awareness when reading about Tequila Leila’s life and death? Being in awareness as a reader of a novel means being aware of the frequencies the story is resonating into the layers of the subconscious mind. If a reader slowly witnesses the impact this story is having upon her own psyche, she can consciously work with these energies to transform the inner “trauma into dharma.” The way to witness this process is meditation. When a story flows through a yogi’s psyche, she can consciously summon the frequencies of compassion and healing to meet the story as its impact echoes throughout the universe within her. So regardless of how my kundalini is reacting to this story, I know I can get Her to RISE again!
When She rises, she is bringing Leila with her! Oh, yogi! Meditate!
According to yogic wisdom, after death, the mind does continue its activity. Thoughts that are projected from any living person continue to ripple out in the subtle realm for at least three-day’s time. For Elif Shafak’s purposes with this particular novel, the 10 minute and 38 seconds time frame comes from scientific observations that have been able to record actual physical brain activity after a person is pronounced clinically dead. Scientists have observed that the brain can remain active for up to 10 minutes and 38 seconds after the body dies.
Yogis say the death process for the body takes up to twenty two minutes for ALL the pulses in the physical body and then subtle body to slow down and stop. The last pulse to stop in the subtle body — always whispering more quietly than the pulse of the physical heartbeat — is the pulse at the center of the shushmani channel, the pulse within the center of the Sukhmani Nadi. But who really knows, maybe the time it takes for any one being to stop pulsing is actually quite different for everyone and every situation. But for our purposes here and now, let’s say that if during her lifetime a yogi cultivates awareness and even a loving relationship between her consciousness and the pulse at the center of her spine, she is likely to be loving and aware at the time of her death. She will be aware of how to launch her soul’s energy up into the Sukhmani Nadi and straight through the Brahmarandara at the time of death. If that’s so important…
Let’s wonder for a moment: if you know you have a choice, would you choose to discard your body while you are still able to be aware of the extremely subtle activity within the shushmana? Or, would you live on through months or years of pain, suffering, and illness just to stay alive in this world one more day, month, or year? But these questions are beyond the scope of this blog post … it’s okay to drift beyond scope, but let’s try to return to Leila.
Well the only point in understanding here that for a yogi, discarding the body in a seated position helps create the link between the consciousness, the spine, and the heavens. Then go! Wahe Guru! This is the frame of reference from which I am reading this novel and meditating on behalf of its characters.
Of course, we know discarding the body while seated in meditation is not a choice that Tequila Leila has in the novel; that missed opportunity for Leila makes her story that much sadder for my own yogi reader’s awareness.
Leila was brutally murdered. What about the situation of murder, yogi?
So what kind of impact does witnessing her situation have upon this yogi’s psyche? What can a yogi do to extend some compassionate energy into the real-life Tequila Leilas out there?
Suppose a yogi practices a particular meditation that is helpful for the afterlife and dedicates such a practice to the characters in this novel; can such a seemingly insignificant gesture help anyone cope, bring healing, and restore balance to the universe?
Can such a practice help the collective psyche to bring more awareness to the death process? How can the devotion of Leila’s friends bring more awareness to the grieving process? Is it possible for the events in a novel to increase a reader’s compassion for the afterlife process for all people, whether they be our dearly beloved, friends, acquaintance, celebrities, singers, strangers, and even those judged as companionless outcasts?
Let’s begin to lovingly approach these questions with something concrete: time.
10 minutes and 38 seconds is a limit. Of course the novel explores beyond these minutes. As expansive beings, we cannot help but exceed the limits. That’s good news.
In yogic meditation, we often sit for a set amount of time. Minutes of meditation have different significance. The amount of time spent sitting in meditation effects the body in different ways. 3 minutes impacts the blood and circulation. 11 minutes has an impact on the pituitary gland and the nerves. Meditating for 22 minutes brings the positive mind, negative mind, and neutral mind into balance. 31 minutes resets the whole mind and brings 31 elements and aura into balance. 62 minutes integrates the “shadow mind” and the positive projection. 2 ½ hours completes a cycle of prana (inward flow of life force energy) and apana (outward flow of life force energy); clear states reached here will stick throughout the cycle of the day and make a lasting imprint on the level of the subconscious mind.
So a novel exploring the mind, body, and soul in the minutes after death appeals to this yogi. A dead being’s subtle energy is still making an imprint in the living realm; meanwhile it’s dimensions are defused and also passing to the Hereafter, moving beyond.
Here is a meditation that was taught by Yogi Bhajan that I practiced during and after reading Elif Shafak’s novel. I dedicated this practice to Tequila Leila and her friends in this novel and to the real-life versions of these characters.
The meditation is called
“Meditation to Go Through Death into the Higher Levels of Ether.”
Sit with a tall spine, in a chair with feet on the floor or sit on the floor with the legs crossed. Place hands in “Prayer Mudra” (both palms pressed together). Place the mudra at the heart center and turn the fingers so they point forward straight out from the heart. The thumbs will be pointing straight up to the sky; now, separate the thumbs — they are like the horns of a ram — point slightly outwards. The elbows are tucked into the sides. Eyes are closed but slightly open with the eyeballs focused at the tip on the nose.
Deeply inhale. While the breath is going out, chant aloud this mantra:
Haree Haree Haree Haree Haree Haree Haree Har.
( Pronounced Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hah DEE Hud ).
Deeply inhale again. Again, chant the mantra while the breath is exhaled. Continue this pattern for 31 minutes.
Yogi Bhajan said that this meditation is a technical, subtle, and powerful way to build your circumvent field. He said, “It’s a circumvent meditation that takes care of your problems in the hereafter.” The circumvent field is the electromagnetic field that surrounds the body. It’s important to note that yogis feel into realms of mind, body, soul (also the titles of the three parts of Shafak’s novel) but also emotion, and most importantly ENERGY. There is a subtle energy body that journeys with us through the death process, too. Meditation in every moment in life helps.
In the novel, when Tequila Leila is buried in the Cemetery of the Companionless, her five closest friends agree that this is an injustice, so they take unexpected actions to right this wrong. Their collective effort is humorous, bold, and frightening; and while their actions give hope, they also provide a fresh vision for how we might “rethink everything we do and the way we are doing it” when it comes to taking care of our dead. This book helps us to feel called upon to rethink the way we do death and grieving and burial ceremonies. And if we can “go through death into the higher levels of ether,” how can our entrance into the higher levels of ether benefit those we leave behind in the living realm?
It is no coincidence that yogis talk about the realm of Blue Ethers and Leila merges with a Blue Betta Fish in the hereafter. The color blue is consistent with both versions of the hereafter experience.
So over the days that I was reading 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World, I was also practicing “Meditation to Go Through Death Into the Higher Levels of Ethers” for 31 minutes. This novel and meditation go well together! Add to that, the 40 seconds of silence when the meditation ends. Those 40 seconds are most important of all. The silence — empowered by meditative creative intention — are the 40 seconds of regeneration of the yogi’s inner cosmos. That’s why the title of this blog post is 31 minutes and 40 seconds under this cold moon.
And the Cold Moon is this last full moon of this decade. My full moon ritual is writing about this book.
The cold moon gifts us the energy of Long Nights. Additionally, the most active meteor shower, the Geminids Meteor Shower occurs during this last full moon of 2019. The moon is full at precisely 12:12 AM EST on 12/12. Some say this full moon brings emotional insight and hope. Well, then, Let’s huddle in close and cry for Leila and hope we learn and improve from having known her!
The full moon is a time to feel complete. This year is complete. I am complete. This project is complete. The full moon is also always a good time to release what no longer serves.
Collectively, may the cruel world release the following bad habits that do not serve: murder, gun violence, sexual abuse, social rejection, families disowning their blood relations, lies, fraud, cynicism, superficiality, superiority complexes, cowardice, greed, ignorance, and all outdated and tired traditions that hurt people rather than elevate people.
The Meditation to Go Through Death Into the Higher Levels of Ether at this moment in time is intended to serve any psyche that wishes to let go of forces that create unfair pain and suffering in every life; but my particular practice of it here and now is especially intended to offer space for healing in any lives similar to that of Tequila Leila from the book 10 minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World.
May those who endure childhood sexual abuse find deep inner healing. May those who work in the sex industry realize their truths and gifts and feel liberated from the indignities, cruelty, violence, and judgements continually thrust upon them. May people who think they are men and women of God, and often regard themselves as somehow spiritually superior to everyone else, come to new understandings about the ways of Grace and blessings. May the ways of Grace and blessings never deem any being, not even the smallest worm, “unworthy.” May those who haven’t the courage to speak the truth that dwells in their hearts find courage to sing their heart’s true song before it is “too late.”
Infinite gratitude to Elif Shafak for her work as a writer of profound insight, imagination, and compassion. May she continue to create literary masterpieces that fill us with hope and inspiration.
I embark on a journey off the map, off the yoga mat, out of time, and out of orbit. Against Father’s wishes (naturally!). I find myself sitting in a dense forest of consciousness. Human consciousness. Light consciousness. Flower consciousness. Tree consciousness. Stone consciousness. Insect consciousness. God consciousness.
Before all grows dark here, there is opportunity to read Spirituality and the Writer by Thomas Larson.
No need to move the body. Let the eyes move across the page. Let the mind process the meaning of words, but that is not all the consciousness experiences now. There is also the awareness of primal stillness, a silence so heavy with presence that we could wear it as a warm garment in the cold Himalayas. Let the presence of primal stillness be the robe you wear! And look at the spaces between these words! Sense the borderless, the unfathomable, limitless uncertainty, the heartbeat of Ardhanareeshwara and Saint Augustine. Sense the synaptic activity within the brain of both Kabir and Leo Tolstoy. Indulge the solitary visions of Dattatreya and Julian of Norwich. Is it possible to open up and allow the tears of Rumi and Margery Kempe to burn these reading eyes? Is it possible to listen so deeply and with such longing that by reading these words, these ears hear a fierce roar that is a collective cry from the depths of all these beings’ collective consciousness…? Is it possible to open this heart even more to allow every word such pulmonary impact as to oxygenate the blood flowing through these veins now?
Thomas Larson’s personal inquiry into the history of spiritual writing ignites fire within me. Poised aflame in this way, I embark upon a literary pilgrimage, a word yatra… There are no temple walls, no paths, no teachers, no teachings. There is only willingness to be sucked into this black hole that is the unambivalent, exuberant absorption into the subject of Larson’s inquiry: contemplate the extent and the ways of “the writer’s ability to bring his spirituality into syntactic being.”
If only I could shout out and make echo my cry through the tunnels of time: “Beloved ones, all your words have a passionate Lover… Yogi Ma!
I deeply appreciate the reverent way Laron writes about Peter Mattheissen’s Snow Leopard. His respect for Mattheissen’s process presents the layers and beauty of the inner journey that inspire me to be alert to every eternity within this moment. Zen with infinite Zero within one single breath that is with me and one with the Pavan Guru.
So, I add Thomas Larson to my ever-growing list of men for whom I chant So Purkh. I cannot say that I am chanting for any particular reason or means to any end. I have lost faith and am not religious. I simply love the feeling of this Shabad on my tongue and the way it dances on the upper palate of my mouth. Delicious! I roar. Delicious! It’s pure and simple infinite sensual pleasure. Roaring the So Purkh Shabad makes my heart grow large enough to fit everything into its embrace. Roaring the So Purkh Shabad gives me strength to fall madly in love with myself and the universe. Thomas Larson and many of these other men will never know that I roar So Purkh on their behalf (such is the ignorance of men!). Oh why is it that sometimes I still like to squirm and wonder and wrestle over a maddening contemplation: what difference does it make to chant So Purkh for men and total strangers? And when this line of inquiry makes me mad, I roar that Shabad some more. Beloved Guru Ram Das, can you hear me?
Thank you, Spirituality and the Writer for being here with me. As I go, I hang this book upon the Pole Star. I watch the book float weightless at midnight. I ride this book on the heaving surf of the Primordial Ocean. And when the pages are wet with sea water, I use them to wash my body clean. I am happy. My interior horizons quiver and quake with In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. The beings in this beginning realm never intended books as sources of knowledge. Maybe books are beings that cradle the Word / God and bend time and space and illuminate the inner life with deeper wonder and awe. Books are the tantric shelter. Books are bridges.
I cannot contain the expressive storm much longer. Silence between these two heart beats grows louder than thunder. I have already begged the Primal Being make me Her / His / or Its humble scribe. I have already roared and screamed and sang out crazy wisdom to no one. No one reads a joyful writer. Why is it that writers must always give best expression to the tortured soul to win praises from cool guys like Thomas Larson? Oh, great, have I written myself into a corner where I can finally mope and brood? Ugh! Help!
I am empty.
So, now I shall wait.
Yogi Bhajan said the highest art is to sit and wait and let it come. Am I supposed to believe that when I had embraced with my heart the highest art is literature…? Oh, well. I have no more faith in any of it at all anymore, not art, not yoga. So now is the best moment to sit and wait and let it come. Imagine reading an endless book called The History of Waiting. Let’s hang that one on the Pole Star!
Come, thunder! Come, lightning! Come, all dark intensity!
This garland of words attempts to engage in an intimate reading of the bestselling novel Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens with the sensibility and sensitivity of a yogi.
Just for fun, I tried this breathing pattern: while reading Owens novel, I inhale slowly and deeply through the pursed lips as if drinking in Life, and exhale very slowly and completely through the nose. Breathing and reading so slowly and deeply, I place my gaze and easygoing concentration on one word then the next. This makes the act of reading a very slow and sensual meditation.
In this way, let us awaken the wisdom of the ecstatic tremor here and now.
Try it, Beloved Friend. For now, breathe slowly and deeply through the pursed lips while we focus together closely on this one scene in the novel.
Tate is the young man who teaches Kya to read. Eventually their physical desire to touch each other reaches the climactic point where they must kiss.
In this moment, Tate asks Kya a loaded question, “Where is your Ma?” Kya reveals the heartbreak: her mother abandoned her. In his turn, Tate shares the loss of his mother and sister in a fatal car accident. United in the psychological scar of Losing Mother revs up to the moment when they smash lip to lip. Here goes:
“And just at that second, the wind picked up, and thousands upon thousands of yellow sycamore leaves broke from their life support and streamed across the sky. Autumn leaves don’t fall; they fly. They take their time and wander on this, their only chance to soar. Reflecting sunlight, they swirl and sail and flutter on the wind drafts.”
These leaves, flying, no, soaring into death, spark joy. In the spirit of feeling the freedom that is Death, Tate rises and invites Kya to play, to catch as many leaves as they can before the leaves touch the ground. In the height of fun, they bump and lock in their gaze.
“He took her shoulders, hesitated an instant, then kissed her lips as the leaves rained and danced around them as silently as snow.”
Where the Crawdads Sing, page 124
Owens writes the scene with the grace of a wildlife lover. Her expression gives a sense that the bliss these characters enjoy in this kiss is the bliss always in the trees, the leaves, the birds, the sky, the marsh, and the stars — all joined together in the Dance of Life. What’s more, Tate and Kya’s kiss brings awareness to the inner life of trees, leaves, birds, sky, and star as these beings eternally tremble with the same energy that humans tremble with when two humans kiss.
Tate and Kya’s moment of union creates bliss in the human physical body, the intense pleasure of two beings kissing. Often it takes kissing for humans to remember the bliss quiver of life that is always present in every piece of life. This is a state of being that we long to connect to with a human physical body; but what does it take to maintain the human body to be completely free of any pain or discomfort and to abandon all that we are to pure thrill and excitement? We long for this state of pleasure because in this state it is easiest to sense the Sacred Tremor that is always there, or what tantrikas* refer to as Spanda. (*Please note that tantrika is simply a spiritual adept who knows how to weave the energies of the sacred into every dimension of life: eating, shitting, fucking, fighting, the comic and the tragic — to a tantrika, it is all sacred). The question is this: how do we sustainthis state of pleasure, freedom, and ease every moment?
In certain yogic breathing exercises, we purse the lips and breathe through the mouth. This way of breathing stimulates the tenth cranial nerve, the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve, which goes all the way from the head to the abdomen, stimulating heart, lungs, and digestion. The vagus nerve, when stimulated and refined, brings circulation, respiration, and digestion into synchronicity.
Kissing the lips of another being feels so satisfying because we engage in a moment in which one being’s vagus nerve syncs up with another being’s vagus nerve, creating a moment of physical union. The vagus nerves of two bodies spark simultaneously. Two hearts drum at once. Lungs lift and shift. Digestive dance within two bodies comes to a welcome pause. The link is so gratifying that one kiss can even unite two beings for years or even lifetimes. One kiss united Kya and Tate. And kept them tangled psychologically and spiritually long after their physical bodies endured years of separation.
Kundalini Yoga Master and Maha Tantric Yogi Bhajan once taught the Trikuti Kriya. In this kriya, we chant the Wahe Guru mantra. When we chant, we focus the sound Wa at the belly, Hey at the heart, and Guru at the lips. On Guru, the lips purse out stimulating the vagus nerve. If the yogi maintains one-pointed focus on the lips while vibrating Guru very powerfully through the lips, then the exercise reveals itself not as a physical exercise but as a sensual and playful act of kissing the Wah Hey Guru mantra.
If humans think it feels nice to lip kiss each other, well contemplate all the possible pleasure of kissing the Wahe Guru Mantra! Kissing Wahe Guru gives the sensation of kissing infinity, and it continues as an Infinite Kiss. Embracing the Trikuti Kriya as a Sadhana while one reads Where the Crawdads Sing can possibly give exalted pleasures because the tremor in the words and the nerve tremor in the body can collaborate to give a perception that every moment is a divine smooch, a mystical merge with a marsh, and a grand, exalted, salty coupling of wildlife with humanity.
I guess this is what it means to read with the sensibility of a yogi. It means to perceive the story dissolved until it is no longer about Kya and Tate, but about polarities coming into union: reader and writer, wild and tame, boy and girl, past and future, up and down, spring and autumn, hot and cold, literate and illiterate, leaves and roots, modern pubescent physical desire and ancient yogic mystical wisdom, pleasure and pain, on and off, loneliness and companionship, life and death. The totality of polarities included. No polarity left behind…
All polarities unite that is a state of yoga. Pure and simple union.
May all beings realize the ways reading while breathing through the pursed lips creates unity with the Infinite. May all beings realize the deep pleasure of practicing Yogi Bhajan’s Trikuti Kriya every day as a way to experience Sacred Kiss. And may all beings continue to feel the ecstatic tremor within making out with G.O.D.
The writer in me longs to communicate and reveal conflict; the yogi in me longs to be in silence and unity. My first travels to the Himalayas brought to the surface the tensions between these two dimensions of my being.
When I journeyed to the Himalayas for a yoga immersion in the Fall 2017, I received a golden opportunity to travel with a well-known yogi and his students. My job was to pen down and transcribe his teachings. I thought that my writing journey and my yogic journey finally received an opportunity to merge.
I am generally reserved.
I get to know people intimately before I am ready to share. When I started to open up to this group of
traveling yogis, a deeper conflict vexed me: back home among my writing friends, no one
expressed much enthusiasm for the benefits of the practice or the esoteric dimensions
of yogic philosophy that fascinate me; meanwhile, among my yoga friends here bumping
around in this old bus on this dangerous road from Chandigarh to Leh, there was
no interest in lyrical writing. No one shared
a joy for reading. So, I got to wondering: How shall my writing life and yoga life resonate
a sense of communion? If no unity is
possible, will the deeper yogic exploration of consciousness compel me to give
up writing? Or, conversely, will the
word-lover in me — and my love for literary writing — urge me to abandon yoga
A Literary Homage to Adventure, Meditation, and Life on the Roof of the World is an
anthology that offers me companionship through this inner conflict. This collection of over thirty essays reveal
a range of voices. Ruskin Bond and
Namita Gokhale are astute editors who created a gathering that perceives the Himalayas
from all angles. This book offered me a way
to reconcile my spiritual practice with my writing life.
For instance, in his essay “Ladakh Sojourn,” Andrew Harvey
contemplates: “Every object in the light of Ladakh seems to have something
infinite behind it; every object, even the most humble, seems to abide in its
This reminded me of practicing meditation at Lake Pangong. We stared, unblinking, at the space between
our eyes and a mountain. We gazed so
long with empty minds at the space between our eyes and the mountain until every
object grew blurry and dissolved. In his
essay, Harvey continues his mind’s wandering over the myriad ways Tibetans,
Kashimirs, Ladakhis, and Muslims live, struggle, and pray side by side in this
ancient mountain town. I welcomed everything
I gazed upon to show me how to abide in my real place.
Arundhathi Subramaniam’s presence in this anthology fills me
with deep pleasure. She is a kindred
spirit. She travels with her teacher, Sadhguru.
In her essay, “Just a Strand of Shiva’s Hair: Face-to-Face with the Axis of the
World,” Subramaniam struggles on an uphill trek toward Mount Kailash, her whole
being so fatigued it hurts to breathe. Her essay describes her inner journey, one in
which her consciousness shifts from respectful observer to cautious
participant, and finally, reluctantly, she realizes she is a devotee. This is the kind of inner crossing that the
There is a theme that repeats in yogic stories wherein the seeker comes to realize that book knowledge is inferior to lived experience. As a reader and literacy advocate, I am always uncomfortable with this theme. Finally, I have found that this anthology supports my personal notion that a book gives an experience; reading is an experience. Perhaps in the past some yogis and sages realized that books do not give ultimate spiritual experience, but books are not the problem. The problem arises when there is any sense of upholding one kind of experience superior over another. Books are not superior to lived experience. Nor is lived experience superior to book knowledge. Neither is higher nor lower. We bow to both.
Now, I remember the feeling of cold stones touching my forehead when we bowed on the bank where the Indus and Zanskar Rivers meet. With my consciousness flowing over memories of my physical journey to the Himalayas mixed with reading the anthology followed by arriving to the end of writing this essay, there exists a flow that comes to a meeting where my awareness blooms. There is reconciliation. I realize I shall write as a way of paying homage. My every act of writing can be an expression of bowing to these mountains, to beloved teachers, writers, readers, yogis, sages, scholars, poets, friends. I secretly contain this intention — may every word I write open a sacred space within me; and may every spiritual discipline light the secret flame burning on the shrine within that sacred space.