Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Leaning on Kachina Woman

I have been blessed to live in a beautiful part of the country, a life-giving desert full of energy and vitality. The other day, my friend and I decided to explore this desert by visiting Sedona, a hub of natural beauty and spiritual seekers.

A brook ran behind one of the new age stores we stopped at, the meditation garden intentionally conducive to quietness, stillness. I stared at a cross on the ground shaped out of rocks, with a crystal sticking up out of the center.  I wasn't looking for anything. But there, in a moment, I felt the ground I stood on was sacred, that all of this earth was holy. I pressed my palms together at my heart in gratitude for the sacredness of the ground, of nature, of life.

We walked a ways down to meet the brook that ran through the town.

I'm pretty sure that when you look for God, you find God. When you choose to find God in your surroundings, you will find God. The Presence of God was everywhere, manifested in the life energy of the trees, the flowing water, the swimming fish.

"This is God," I thought, immersed in the wonder of it all.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - Henry David Thoreau 

To dry our feet after traipsing across rivers and balancing across fallen logs, we went to the red rocks.

There is healing and peace amongst those rocks.

There are "vortexes" throughout Sedona, places at which the physical energy is high, places people say are conducive to spiritual discovery.

I believe this earth was made with glory and power within it, made beautiful in mind bending ways that Nikola Tesla was only beginning to understand. So, I believe in forces created into the earth, not present in and of themselves, but placed there for seekers, to draw people to God. And that is where we went, drawn to the red rock vortexes.

We hiked up Boynton Canyon to sit between two knolls, one of masculine energy, the other feminine. A man met us as we were on our way up and he on his way down. He had been playing a flute, guiding seekers to the vortex. He told us about the twisted tree, the place between the two knolls where feminine and masculine energy meet in perfect unison, like a dance. We thanked him and he turned to walk back down the path. He stopped, turned to us again.

"Hey," he said, and handed us each a heart shaped red rock, "This isn't just a place to receive. It's a place to let go of anything you're holding onto."

We watched him turn around and walk away. Our temporary guru. And I thought of a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert:

"If you're brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you."

We wandered up to the twisted tree. My friend sat down at the mesh of the energies. But I was drawn elsewhere. I looked to the knoll on the right, Kachina Woman, named after the Hopi legend of Kachina Woman who was sent to earth to mediate between humans and God, watching over them. 

I took off my shoes, knowing I stood on holy ground. I leaned against the smooth red rock, closed my eyes, and practiced stillness. In the quietness of my mind I heard a whisper, like a breeze. 

Pay attention. 
Pay attention to the subtleties. 
God is there. 

I sat in peace with God for an hour. 

There are "mountaintop" moments, moments in which one is filled with wonder and awe, a feeling of being full of God's Presence. A feeling of oneness. A feeling of being. 

The challenge is bringing that moment off the mountain with you, into the daily grind, the messy beauty of humanity. Find the beauty in the people around you, in each moment, in architecture, in poetry, in art, in acts of love both big and small. Search for beauty and it will not be withheld from you. Search for truth and it will not be withheld from you. Search, search for God like a man with his head on fire searches for water. 

And perhaps take a trip to Sedona to lean against Kachina Woman. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Looking For Guanyin

From my notes where I was this time one year ago, living in a guesthouse with a rented bed in the sweltering Kolkata summer.

For a while my interior monologue had a British accent, like the ones I was surrounded with. Now it speaks to me in Spanish and I understand only fragments. 

There is a sound like a 1930s radio blaring just down the street, like a weird Hindu carnival calling all the insomniatic devout. 

The Mexican girls think Gotham City is a real city in America. I didn't correct them. 

You don't argue with darkness. You just shine a light. - Indian Pastor Ben

"Make a wish," Ahad says, " you wish on a broke star."

The less we have, the more we give. Seems absurd but it's the logic of love. -Mother Theresa

If you'd like to read more from my time spent in Kolkata volunteering with Missionaries of Charity, you can click here. 

Today I went in search of Guanyin, Goddess of Compassion found in Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

In one legend it is said that Guanyin reincarnated as the daughter of a cruel king who wanted her to marry a wealthy but uncaring man. She refuses until her father finds a way to alleviate the suffering of the people of the world. He cannot, and he punishes her, making her do manual labor. He finally is fed up with her insistence and orders her to be executed. According to legend, the executioner tried many ways of killing her: his axe shattered, his sword shattered, his arrows veered away from her. Finally, in desperation, the executioner uses his hands to choke the life from Guanyin.

The Princess, realising the fate that the executioner would meet at her father's hand should she fail to let herself die, forgave the executioner for attempting to kill her. It is said that she voluntarily took on the massive karmic guilt the executioner generated for killing her, thus leaving him guiltless. It is because of this that she descended into the Hell-like realms. While there, she witnessed first-hand the suffering and horrors that the beings there must endure, and was overwhelmed with grief. Filled with compassion, she released all the good karma she had accumulated through her many lifetimes, thus freeing many suffering souls back into Heaven and Earth. In the process, that Hell-like realm became a paradise. It is said that Yama, the ruler of hell, sent her back to Earth to prevent the utter destruction of his realm.

If you want to read more about Guanyin, you can read about her here. 

It's interesting, when you start looking for Jesus in places you've never looked, you find Him. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Elephant in the Dark

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.
No one here has ever seen an elephant.
They bring it at night to a dark room.

One by one, we go in the dark and come out
Saying how we experience the animal.
One of us happens to touch the trunk.
A water-pipe kind of creature.

Another, the ear. A very strong, always moving
back and forth, fan-animal. Another, the leg.
I find it still, like a column on a temple.

Another touches the curved back.
A leathery throne. Another, the cleverest,
feels the tusk. A rounded sword made of porcelain.
He is proud of his description.

Each of us touches one place
and understand the whole that way.
The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark
are how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.

If each of us held a candle there,
And if we went in together, we could see it.

- Rumi

Is our experience of God the only way the Divine can be experienced? 

If not, why do we act as if it is? 
Why do we try so hard to get others to experience Divinity in the same ways we do?

If we listened more, and talked less, we would know God better. 

"Silence is God's first language; everything else is a poor translation." 
-Thomas Keating