Be Luminous; Be Empty

Be Luminous; Be Empty

Good news: I completed Embodied Philosophy’s online course called “Understanding the Tibetan Book of the Dead with Andrew Holecek.” In synchrony, while studying with this amazing teacher, my personal Sadhana happens to involve chanting 108 repetitions of the Maha Mrityunjai Mantra every day, three times a day, for the past 49 days. This mantra is from the Rig Veda and is known as the “death-conquering mantra.” After a couple weeks of practice of mantra repetition, an internal visualization arose from deep within me, spontaneously.

Now, every time I sit, the following visualization–an inner experience of time-stretching and elemental merging–easily accompanies the mantra repetition:

Energy moves up and down the chakras: when the energy pauses for decades at the root chakra, I am the peaks of the Himalayan mountains and mud and stone. When the energy pauses for centuries at the sacral chakra, I am fast-flowing rivers, rolling seas, and rainfalls. When the energy pauses for millennia at the navel chakra, I am every candle flame, every hearth fire, the Dhuni Baba built, Cerridwen’s cauldron fire, every sacred blaze, wildfire, and the burning sun. When the energy pauses for a kalpa at the heart chakra, I am wind blowing lovingly around the Himalayan peaks, blowing over oceans, over prairies, over marshlands, through windows, slamming into my beloved’s face. When the energy pauses at the throat chakra for a maha kalpa, I am blue sky, an ageless, expansive stretch of firmament witnessing the whirls of human, natural, and other worlds. When the energy pauses at the Third Eye for one day of Brahma, I am the white-hot, crystalline center of both the Star of Bethlehem and the Dhruva Tara. When the energy pauses at the crown chakra for a yuga of Brahma, I am the cosmic expanse that is infinite dark emptiness. I am the space that holds everything. I am all that; plus, I am the sound of the mantra vibrating through all that.

This inner experience is a kriya as defined by Patañjali because it involves tapas, Svādhyāya, and iśvara pranidhāna. This is an inner experience that initiates me into timeless and space-less wonder over my own formless nature. At first, I repeated this contemplation as a tapas (discipline) until the visualization and mantra flowed continuously with me. This whole experience has been thoroughly enjoyable, delicious soul food. To flow with this kriya while reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead raises the hair on my skin, as though my whole being knows it is drinking from a source, and my spiritual nature looks forward to whatever arises through any bardo experience, not just the one after I leave this body but through all liminal moments and spaces. I humbly pray: may the benefits of my life’s practices be received by all beings everywhere. Integrating the book of the dead into my practice is a Svādhyāya (self-study).

What’s more, I marvel and fill with awe to witness the fascinating treasure that this kriya brings into my life. Kriya creates the energy of the magnetism, and that is the iśvara pranidhāna (surrender to the divine).

So, where did my surrender lead me?

During his class, Andrew mentioned a book by Francis V. Tiso called Rainbow Body and Resurrection: Spiritual Attainment, the Dissolution of the Material Body, and the Case of Khenpo A Chӧ. Immediately, when I heard mention of this book, every cell in my body lit up, excited. Those words together, “rainbow body and resurrection” ignited my intense curiosity. Andrew said the book is esoteric and scholarly–it’s for “deeper divers.” (Let me add that this book also does not resonate much woman-oriented spirit that I have been more drawn to lately, so my attraction to it is surprising to me; thus, I surrender). I do wish to express how delightful it is to dive with beautiful beings such as Francis Tiso, Andrew Holecek, and Khenpo A Chӧ. Aware that these sages know nothing of my existence, I privately imagine myself a kind of monk brother who is intimately connected to them nonetheless–it’s important for me to insist that I feel that reading this book is the way to access and enjoy their company. The way I encounter these spiritual masters is as a friend and nectar-lover, but if I ponder the ways I do not exist to them, why not let that be? I am empty.

I’m an ordinary yogi who is a deep diver. I read Tiso’s book slowly. I re-read many paragraphs. I like the kinds of fascinating questions he asks; the difficulty of the text is music to me; the investigation he is doing is fraught with noble flaws, complications, and challenges. It reveals cross-pollination of contemplative practice; it mentions a practice of embodying sunlight, which resonates with me; it discusses the enigma of researching, writing about, and describing the rainbow body as this is counter-intuitive to achieving the rainbow body; it suggests historical developments due to connections made on the Silk Road; it’s impossible, but because it is impossible that’s what makes it worth doing and reading about and being with. Tiso is attempting an inquiry that wants to honor dialogue between religions and belief systems, reveal how they impact one another. His book opens inquiry and contemplation on Jesus Christ’s glorious resurrection with inquiry and contemplation on the Tibetan Buddhist attainment of the rainbow body. I love it, especially if we can see that there is no inferior or superior ways but deep, equitible dialogue.

I am especially enthralled with his discussion of the Shroud of Tarin. I hadn’t seen nor really heard of this shroud until reading this book. When I saw the image of the shroud in the book, I fell madly in love!

A practice that I have started to do while I tuck into bed is to visualize that while I am covering my body with blankets to prepare to sleep at night, I imagine I am covering my body with the Shroud of Tarin. This visualization fills me with such a thrill that I swear I could just step out of my skin and join in blissful union with Divine Loving Kindness because it’s that simple.

On another note, I wonder if Francis Tiso is familiar with Tom Kenyon and Judi Sion’s The Magdalen Manuscript. If I were to guide a class, I would recommend reading Tiso’s book together alongside Kennyon’s book. It’s a wonder to imagine all the ideas and inquiries that would arise reading these two books and sitting together through a tea ceremony. The Magdalen Manuscript reveals some dimension of Mary Magdalen’s experience with Yeshua (Christ), and their practice together of refining and empowering his Ka Body (subtle body) so that Christ could accomplish his difficult resurrection. According to this version of the story, that Ka Body practice was a key ingredient in Christ’s attainment. Being sensitive to this dimension of things, it is intriguing to notice that Tiso mentions the nuns who worked with Khenpo A Chӧ, but he did not interview the nuns. He did not include his talk with the nuns about the Khenpo’s visit to them one month before he left his body. This makes me feel that while Tiso’s book is amazing scholarship, it is missing an enormous piece of the picture, i.e. the divine feminine dimension of attaining the Rainbow Body. After reading Tiso, a huge question remains: What role does a divine feminine initiate and woman play in spiritual attainment of these men dissolving into light bodies? What about women who dissolve into light bodies?

According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, after death, while traveling through the bardo, the Noble One will experience a moment when it is time to recognize the divine lovers, a divine mother and a divine father, the doorway to reincarnation; be conceived. On Tibetan tankas, there is the graphic image of the deities enjoying sexual union. There is something highly sacred and important about the sexual union aspect of attainment. How does it relate to the “Initiatory Act of the Four Serpents” as Mary described it? And this is not the way we currently fathom the sexual relationship between two physical bodies. It is more of a spiritual sexual energetic that involves sophisticated connection of intention, strict focus, contemplative intensity, and prayer.

Alas, I don’t teach a class. But there is an imaginary place I like to go to fathom there are people who are actually interested in these inquiries, and they meet with me in happy companionship. This place is called Murakami’s Jazz Bar, or sometimes it is called Mirabai’s Yoga Lounge. Wherever I dream up, I will continue to practice repetition of the Maha Mrityunjai Mantra plus that inner journey with the elementals and chakras. And for sure I am going to keep up with imagining that I am falling asleep at night covered in the Shroud of Tarin.

Infinite pranams to all beings who read this essay and feel a sense of connection, and if you felt a sense of discomfort reading this, even better. Either way, may we enjoy cheerful companionship in the subtle realm. I am with you!     

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.

Inhale Poetry; Exhale Prayer

Inhale Poetry; Exhale Prayer

A tribute and dedication to the

Corrymeela Community

It is April! Celebrate poetry!

A poet whom I had not heard of before a month ago has entered into my awareness, and I write this post to honor the significance of my encounter with his work.

The poet’s name is Pádraig Ó Tuama.

In the beginning of March, I received an e mail from “Poem-a-Day,” an e mail list I subscribe to. I subscribe to so many lists that I quickly glance at message subject lines and am very selective about taking time to open a message. But on this day, the subject line “Makebelieve” intrigued me enough to click open the e mail message that contained Pádraig Ó Tuama’s poem, “Makebelieve.” One click is all…

One never knows where as small a gesture as clicking open an e mail message may lead, especially when that message contains a poem with these opening lines: “And on the first day / god made / something up.”

Now, receiving these words delighted me. Fun! To perceive the entire creation can be, quite possibly, one exuberant jazz improvisation! It is great fun to make something up. You go, god! It’s playful! In my own experience, playfulness is the closest I come to divinity. So, yes, I’m in, here we go, let’s play!

In the spirit of improvisation, I encounter this poem, wondering what I can make up here. Suppose this is a first day because, really, it must be a first day of something somewhere for someone. Today is Day One of “Makebelieve.”

Yogi Bhajan taught a meditation that repeats the mantra, “God and Me. Me and God are One.” Repetition of such words primes consciousness to realize Self, God and Creation are one great, shimmering, spinning thrum of spontaneity. With such awareness, the Self may encounter “Makebelieve” as inspiring a creation.

Hello to the flow of possibility!

“Makebelieve” enters my consciousness and begins its elfin dance in my world.

I inhale the entire poem deeply. Let open my cells, nerves, muscles, organs, glands. May I embrace the poem’s vibration within my body. Even the space between each word in the poem enters into my tissues, cells, and nerves. Let words of “Makebelieve” resonate throughout my 72,000 nadis and add to the gospel according to Ida, Pingala, and Sushmana!

And on the first day

god made

something up.

Then everything came along:

seconds, sex and

beasts and breaths and rabies;

hunger and healings,

lust and lust’s rejections;

swarming things that swarm

inside the dirt;

girth and grind

and grit and shit and all shit’s

functions;

rings inside the treetrunk

and branches broken by the snow;

pig’s hearts and stars,

mystery, suspense and stingrays;

insects, blood

and interests and death;

eventually, us,

with all our viruses, laments and

curiosities;

all our songs and made-up stories;

and our songs about the stories

we’ve forgotten;

and all that we’ve forgotten we’ve

forgotten;

and to hold it all together god made

time

and those rhyming seasons

that display decay.


Pádraig Ó Tuama

Read it again over long moments and visualize welcoming this poem into my pineal gland, and inviting the pineal gland to secrete its Nectar of Mystic Pleasure.

I read the poem over and over aloud and then in a whisper and then silently. I inhale and suspend the breath inside while I silently repeat the poem.

Then I exhale and suspend the breath out while I silently repeat the poem.

Filling and emptying myself with poem and with breath in this way I can amuse / observe myself for hours. I combine a simple, ancient yogic breathing pattern with deeply experiencing this one good contemporary poem. And guess what, Mister Pádraig Ó Tuama? I am meditating with your poem, and breathing consciously all while sitting in my yogi cave! And after regarding your work, sir, I do know how you feel about caves. Hello to the Cave between my eyebrows! Welcome in! You, sir, have nothing to fear in this yogi cave as you are welcomed here with great reverence. Friend, you are known in here as

The Lord of the Rings Inside Tree Trunks!

Not that you created the rings inside tree trunks, but you created my fresh-colored awareness of them. Before I read your poem, the rings inside tree trunks were brown. After reading your poem, for me, the rings inside tree trunks are brown tinged with gold.

Let’s just sit here the day long and breathe this poem. Let every word and thought be intimately entwined with breath awareness. Any poem worth reading demands The Slowed-Breath Reading. Elongate the moments of the poem; take it word by word with lots of pause and be aware of the eye’s movements: ask, over which words or spaces do my lids close then open, close then open? What unseen dust do my lashes flit off? What of the play of light the words toss inside these eyes? When I happen upon a word or groups of words I adore, am I open to regarding their effect inside my body as miraculous as, say, news of the birth of our world’s beloved Savior?

Can breathing and being with this one poem align me up for longed-for, deep-connection encounters with my fellow word-lovers who delight in the wordly realm of divine play?

I seek and find a travel companion in this complete stranger, this Gay Irish Catholic poet named Pádraig, who knows nothing whatsoever of my own queer existence. Now, a shadow of me may lurk in his subconscious mind somewhere as “the reader,” but the way his writing resonates with me, I would have to insist I know him too well. I want to proclaim I am his Brother.

Now, I know I can be perceived to be wearing a woman’s body. But the hug I imagine giving my Brother to thank him for his writings, the heart hug I imagine giving him, is a hug that I give him with a man’s arms, with a man’s heart, with a generous amount of gratitude and admiration transferred through all my man-muscles squeezing. And when we regularly squeeze tension into our muscles and then release, we learn how to let go of tension. Hug often. Squeeze often. Let go often.

But now back to “Poem-a-Day.” This daily e mail offers so much more in one e mail message than one poem per day.

Now I choose to create infinite amounts of time, leisure, open hours, quiet light that urges me to listen to the voice of my soul that says, yes, explore here! Though I have a list of “things to do,” I am choosing to listen to my soul and take a heartfelt dive into this here rich library of resources before me offered by Poetry.org. What truth does this tell about my relationship to my “to do” list?

This e mail message relays all sorts of things that relate to the poem, “Makebelieve.” Welcome all this now to relate to all of me. Let me dwell and draw out this moment when my first encounter with this poem, this poet, this stranger exudes its power. The power of this Stranger is that he piques my curiosity, invites me into a fresh realm of the contemplative journey, a new mystery, and fabulous play. Over the month of March, I have been submersing myself in his writing, and my encounter with this writer is guiding me on a lyrical pilgrimage.

He is returning me, after a long time exploring a variety of sacred texts and bowing to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, his work is returning me to explore love for the The Holy Bible.

The “Makebelieve” poem comes with a list of titles by the author, plus any links to further resources. In the first encounter, I learned a bit of biographical information about Pádraig Ó Tuama. Here is his insight that instantly invited my joyful participation.

“When it comes to ‘Freedom of Religion’, much attention is given to the words freedom and religion. However, the of is also worthy of mention. Religion is free; it is free to query, to make meaning, to break things, to make things up. Religion is—or should be—free to change too, or to wrap itself around the delight and devastation of the human condition. Religion does not only provide a storypoem about the earth’s creation, it also provides a form by which we can create, and recreate, break and makebelieve. We are made of humus, the old texts tell us—we are also made of rot and time; danger and demand. In the beginning was a…what? You tell me.”


Pádraig Ó Tuama

In this beginning right now is longing for friendship. So, I continue to be here. I learn he wrote a book of poems called Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community. Reading a bit further, I learn that The Corrymeela Community is Ireland’s oldest reconciliation community. An easy click on the content below that leads me to the Corrymeela Community homepage.

In the “About Us” page, I read that the Corrymeela Community is a people of “prayers, conversation, curiosity, and questioning.” Instantly, I think, Yes, I adore these people! This is my kind of community. How I long to retreat to such a place where people are devoted to sitting fireside together, drinking cups of tea and engaging in deep, honest conversations about difficult subjects.

How I long to spend every Spring season reading poetry, meditating, practicing yoga kriya, and praying my radiant heart out. Then wouldn’t it be nice to sit down with any person, idea, or state of being that has hurt or helped me and engage in a good, long, difficult talk?

Hello to the distance between us.

Hello to closing that distance with sharing contemplative writing.

Instantly, I ordered my own copy of Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community. When it arrived to my home in California several days later, I read it over and over. And to dive into the details of how my physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and etheric bodies encounter these quiet poems will take so much longer than this blog post. So now all that and all I wish to contemplate and write while slowly reading through his book In the Shelter is filling page after page of my quiet notebooks.

Hello to pure contentment.

Hello to my solitary cloister.

I like to contemplate the different ways we sit with the body when we are in prayer; more specifically, I wonder at the various ways we place the hands to pray. Friend, when you pray, do you fold your hands in what yogis refer to as a Venus lock, with the fingers interlaced and finger tips resting on the back of the hands; or do you press your palms together with the fingers aligned upright pointing each skyward, palm flat against palm, and pressing with a bit of pressure between the palms? Do you pray with the forehead kissing the Earth? What gesture do you use to express that your head serves your heart? What ways do you proclaim to the cosmos your sense of humility and awe in the presence of the divine? Perhaps you find comfort in returning to the curled position humans assume in the womb, all curled up, you pray? In what position do you pray? I wonder: How did Jesus hold his hands and his body, privately, while he was making his most private, inward, anguished prayer? What did Jesus feel within his spine? What word did he use to describe the sensations within his Brahmarandhra?

I love to imagine myself present while the Corrymeela Community prays. I image myself engaging in conversations, arguments, question and answer sessions with everyday people who have endured great suffering and conflict. Let me pour you a cup of tea. Let us bow our heads. Let us pray. Let us breathe. Though I am far away and a complete stranger, please feel me close to you. Feel a friend near, a yogi with a big, generous heart. Please welcome me as one who longs to hear your stories of all that troubles you and all that comforts you.

Here is what I admire about the Corrymeela Community: they sincerely work “to be engaged with the world at its points of fracture, faith and potential.” This resonates with me as a kundalini yogi because Kundalini is defined as “the creative potential within a being.” Potential is always beloved of yogis and this potential blooms from within.

Sadhguru says it like this:


If you know how to be equanimous and exuberant at the same time, there will be no fear. Whatever situation you may face, life will always be beautiful. Once there is exuberance and equanimity in you, your destiny will not be ruled by what happens around you, but only by what happens within you.

Sadhguru

I am full of exuberance about this poet I have met through the written word. In my mind and heart I behold his writing…slowly. Perhaps it seems that circumstances prohibit me from physically visiting the Corrymeela Community at this time, other than through my online journey. But as a yogi, I intend to project my subtle body, my intention, and my prayers, which know no bounds. I practice yogic art of subtle transmission to pay my visit to Corrymeela Community. Dear Friends, I am listening.

Here is how I intend to be present and celebrate and be with this community:

I dedicate my own 40 days of kundalini yoga practice of Creative Energy Kriya and the Meditation for Word Power to the Corrymeela Community in “[The] North[ern] [of] Ireland.” Throughout these 40 days, may whatever shifts I observe in my body, my thoughts, my energy, and my consciousness be a dedication to all beings who encounter fracture, faith, and potential. May we engage in these encounters with sensitivity, awareness, listening, and longing for peace. May this practice resonate loving solidarity with those who pray from a place of witness, from a place of humility, from a place of feeling the touch of God’s grace within the depths of human longing.

I repeat: one never knows where as small a gesture as clicking open an e mail may lead. Embracing this mystery compels me to wonder at and imagine the ripples, ramifications and consequences of my larger gestures, the great actions I embark upon throughout the day. What will my hands touch? Where will these feet take me? What words will this tongue speak and what impact will all of that movement have, if any? Would it be better or worse if I keep quiet and be still?

So, to close, I shall bow–forehead smooching dirt–to that singular moment when I clicked open that “Poem-a-Day” message. I bow again to the flow that carried me with my own curiosity through the caves within the land of “Makebelieve.” And I bow to every small gesture that guided the poet,
Pádraig Ó Tuama, to complete and share his poem “Makebelieve.” I bow to everyone who reads the poem and encounters it with their full consciousness. As this will keep me bowing for quite some time, I surrender some part of my Self to dwell in an inward repetition of Infinite Pranams.

Here is a prayer: May this forty-day Sadhana be a journey into deeper awareness of how creative energy works and what we do now, and can do, with creative energy. May there be realization of heart-to-heart connection. And though each personal “here and now” may seem distant, different, dissonant, or distinct from one another, may we perceive at the heart a brotherhood of glory and a brotherhood of grace. May we come to appreciate the ways in which we are co-creators of peace, conscious repeaters of hurts and reconciliations, and quiet strugglers with internal conflict in a universe of ever-shifting bounds and seasons. May I feel the courage to ask: Is there room enough at your table, you who explore the “Spirituality of Conflict,” to be open to a dialogue with one who wants to learn more about you as she also studies the very-softly-whispering gospels according to Ida, Pingala and Shushmana (the three subtle energy channels that run on the left, right and middle of the human spine that are most important to ancient yogis)?

May every inhale gift a poem; may every exhale give a prayer.

Sat Nam!



In the Shelter Talk with dear Pádraig

A Book Review & the Himalayas

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 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.