Thunder Within

Thunder Within

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 one quiet yogi awaits You.

Garland of Words

Garland of Words

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 sustain this 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.

Sat Naam!

Cover of Where the Crawdads Sing designed by Meighan Cavanaugh

A Book Review & the Himalayas

The writer in me longs to communicate and reveal conflict; the yogi in me longs to be in silent and be in 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 master yogi.  My job was to pen down and transcribe his teachings.  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 practice? 

Himalaya: 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 real place.” 

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 Himalayas inspire.  

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.