Seeing Amma

I am preparing to see Amma next month in MA.  It will be the third time that I have gone and the experience has been mind blowing, traumatic, dramatic, lonely, and yet filled with love and compassion the likes of which I have never experienced.

Amma is considered by many to be a fully enlightened being, a saint.  She does and sponsors great humanitarian efforts throughout the world.  She is said to have hugged over 34 million people.

I went for the first time three years ago to get a hug.  I approached the whole thing with an attitude of suspending disbelief.  I was still in the process of deep emotional work, and still am most of the time.  I was suspicious and reluctant to believe.  I went for two days.  I got a few hugs.  I got a mantra which meant I accepted her as my guru even though I was not sure.  And I cried.  I cried through every hug and so much of the time in between.  I started to think I had been through a war.  I had, it was in my mind.  Amma says we must declare war on our minds to achieve peace.  And I did.  And I slowly learned the mantra and so much more and came to use them regularly.

Last year I was more up on my game.  I had done more spiritual work and was prepared for the emotional tidal wave being there and getting a hug would bring.  I was more prepared.  This time I got in the question line.  She only takes a few.  And while the others in the question line passed through quickly, she had me sit there for four hours before answering my question.  A woman who works closely with her came to me and said “she is doing work on you, that is why you have to sit there.”  I had figured as much and I was grateful and a little resentful – “I’m not so bad off that I need four hours of work” right to “thank God she is helping me.”  Then I got more hugs and volunteered at various tasks.  It was more fulfilling than the first time.  And I upped my game on the spiritual work.

Brene Brown says in one of her books that once you get into the arena you can’t ever go back to the place you were before you got into the arena – no matter how much you might long to from time to time.  I think of this often.  But I don’t really want to go back to that place.  It was lonely and miserable and I did not even know what it meant to be present or in-body.  I do now.  And the work FEELS miserable at times but my life is by now means miserable.  Perspective has shifted.  I have shifted.  I am not done with the work yet.  But I am oh so much closer.  I have a teacher that says everything we want is guaranteed – the only thing not guaranteed is when – this lifetime or some other.  But then thinking in terms of time leaves us identified with time as if there is a difference between 5 minutes and 500 lifetimes.  A hard concept for my mind.

So this year I plan to go.  And I am making these plans with much more peace.  I know that I will know many people there and that the vibration of these people gathered together is high, so much higher than my vibration alone.  I know that I will cry when I get a hug and that this is ok, even exactly as it is supposed to be.  I know that I still have work to go although I have made great progress.  I know that I wish everyone could experience what it is to be held in Mother’s arms and feel loved.

To all those parts before today, today, and after.  Ahimsa.  Compassion.  From there all else flows.

Accepting Limits and Letting Go

I have never been all that accepting of limits and the things I have let go of generally have claw marks on them.  A friend once told me that my issues with authority were so severe that if I were dictator of the world I would stage a coup d’etat.  I once looked backed and saw how much of my life was set up so that no one could tell me know.  I had a lot of attitude and very little trust in others – a product likely of being on my own at such a young age.

But even as a grown adult now, there are few areas in my life where someone other than me sets the limits so when I bump up against a limit I really struggle.

Six and a half weeks ago I had major neck surgery – they cut out a section of four vertebrea in the cervical spine and put in two rods to hold my neck together.  This happened while I was in the middle of my 300 yoga teacher training with a very busy schedule of training, teaching 4 classes a week, two kids and just life happening.

At first I did not want to put teacher training on hold and wanted to miss as few days as possible and was working a plan to make up the time I would have to miss as quickly as possible.  Post surgery in a hard collar life started to change.  I could barely life my arms up to wash my hair.  I was not allowed to drive.  And was in too much pain to do much of anything.  Thankfully I had a strong community, sangha, that organized visits and taking me out so that I would not be too lonely or bored.  My surgeon cleared me to go back to training provided I did no asana.  I went for one day and was in so much pain that night and the next day.  Then I started dreading going back.

I have learned things in yoga.  One is called ahimsa.  Non-violence.  Compassion to self and others.  The other was non-grasping or clinging to things.  I sat with this for a few days and contacted the head of my teacher training and let her know that I would not be able to finish this year.  They are letting me suspend training and pick it up where I left off at no additional cost.  Very kind and gracious.  But it was a big letting go.  I could hear myself saying “I am not a quitter!!”  But then I could hear the quiet little voice saying – ahimsa, compassion.

But there was also the limits my body has set.  I could not drive for six weeks and had to depend on others for pretty much everything.  Hard.  I have a great and kind sangha but I struggle still with trusting that they will be there.  And the limits my body sets every day. That I can only walk slowly right now until my neck heals rather than do all that yoga.  That I can teach yoga now but I had to become practiced at teaching with more verbal instruction/assists and less demonstration.

Everything as I age – I will be 50 this year – is a new limit.  A new opportunity – welcome or not, to let go.  Its hard.  But the moment I let go is the moment that I get peace.  So that I can be happy for my fellow trainees who will finish this year without resentment or bitterness – which would have been a thing for me in the past.  And every yoga pose as I slowly start to do them will be learning what my new limits are and offer me an opportunity to meet myself with ahimsa rather than aggressively pushing through something to potential further injury.

And finally, as I age so do my children and there is big letting go there.  I no longer dictate all parts of their lives and have to let them figure some things out themselves.  Let them make their own choices even if it is not a choice I would make.  With guidance for sure but there are more and more areas where we talk things through and then I let them make their own choices.  Its interesting to watch the progression.  And the progress I make all the time in more easily and quickly, accepting limits and letting go.

As they say, let go and let God.  Surrender.

I Sent You Nothing But Angels

Such a hard thing to remember – that God sent us nothing but angels to help us experience Who We Are in this lifetime.

I was reading Walsch’s children’s book The Little Soul and the Sun and in this book God tells the little soul who wants to have a body so it can experience itself as the One Who Forgives to remember that God sent him nothing but angels to help him.  The point of it is that even the people who come and do things that are hard or that we call bad are doing it not because they are bad but because they have agreed to lower their vibration to allow them to do this thing so that we can experience ourselves the way in which we came into this lifetime to experience ourselves.

The language gets a little convoluted in explaining this but the statement – I have sent you nothing but angels – keeps coming into my mind.  Perhaps because there are people in my life with whom I am struggling.  Marriage is hard.  Friends who are no longer friends can be hard.  The things that people do that can be hurtful are hard.  The lying.  The cheating.  The stealing.  The self absorption.  The unkindness.  We encounter these things throughout our days and lifetimes to varying degrees.  The question for me is to how to let this stuff go and not sit in disappointment, anger, resentment – whatever the feeling is.  For me, the feeling I struggle with the most is disappointment.

But I read this book and the statement I have sent you nothing but angles keeps coming to mind and it is helping me to release some things I have been holding onto from my childhood, broken relationships etc.  To know that perhaps we agreed that this person would do something that would allow me to experience myself as a person who forgives. Or a person who is kind.  And then likewise, that I have agreed to do things that my mind would judge to be bad in order to help someone else on their journey.

I’m not sure what the Truth is.  I do know that it feels better to believe that God has sent me nothing but angels.  I am learning to forgive other souls. I am learning to forgive myself.

Tell Me What God Is

I worked with the question “What Is God?” during this past enlightenment intensive and have remained with the question.  I keep hearing the direction in my head for dyads – “tell me what God is.”  Over and over again until I fear I am going to lose my mind.

Fear of going insane and fear of death are two of the blocks to enlightenment from what I understand from the master.  And I have lost my mind in the past.  It is hard to be in the psych ward as much as I have been earlier in my life and not have a fear of going insane, of getting locked up again.  And much of it stems from needing this connection with God so much and feeling like I don’t have it, or have it nearly as much as I want.

Wanting, longing for something, is so hard.  The pain sits in my heart and belly like a huge gaping open wound.  But even though it is painful there is a sweetness to it.  The sweetness is new to me, the pain is old.  The sweetness comes from having a taste of what it is to feel God in me, in the world, in others.  The relief of not having that feeling of isolation and separateness for even microseconds is tremendous.

I decided last night that I need to work on my relationship with God in a different way.  The longing and crying out to God is essential but it is rather vague in some way.  And I need that relationship to be personal.  So I have started my own conversations with God. And giving God all of me – all my thoughts, feelings, and life stuff, all of my struggles.  One of the teachings I have heard is that we have to give all of it to God, even the hate, the anger, the fear, the anguish.  It is hard for me because that is not what I was taught when I was young.  But it is what I am trying to follow now.  It feels much more authentic than pretending not to be angry about life, about how hard the journey is, about how worried I can get, about how alone I feel in this world.  Although truthfully I am feeling less alone now than I ever did.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I am building that sangha, that community.

But for now, my focus is on that connection with God.  A deep and personal connection.  A vision almost that God could hold me much like a child giving me all the comfort and love in the universe.  That feeling is what makes the struggle mean something.

Tell Me What God Is: EI 5

I am reeling having just returned from my 5th enlightenment intensive.  I worked on two questions this time – first “what is life?” and then “what is God?”.  It was by far the most profound experience I have had durning and intensive albiet not a direct experience.

For those who are unfamiliar with an EI, it is a retreat designed to achieve enlightenment or a direct experience of The Truth.  You sit in dyads taking turns being a speaker or a listener.  So someone will sit across from you and give you your direction, in my case this weekend “Tell me what God is”.  Then as the speaker it is your job to contemplate the question and communicate absolutely everything that comes up for you during your contemplation in that five minutes.  This goes on for 18 hours a day with the enlightenment exercises being broken up by meal, snack, walking, work, lecture and sitting contemplations.  There is often social silence imposed during the intensive so you are not communicating with others outside of the dyads.

It does not usually take long for people to fall apart during an EI.  At any various times people may be laughing, sobbing hysterically, screaming.  Its not hard to lose your mind during and intensive.  But that seems to be part of the process to me – losing the mind to directly experience The Truth.

For the first time in my EI experiences, I did in fact completely let go into the technique taught for contemplating and communicating to the point where I was sobbing out for God for several enlightenment exercises spanning 4 or 5 hours.  I was able to get out of my own way to fully feel the painfully sweet longing for God.  I did not have a direct experience which is always somewhat disappointing but it was beautiful nonetheless.  In the agony is the ecstasy.

But coming home and integrating that experience is always a little challenging.  I tend to process things through my body and it affects my sleep and how well I interact in the world.  The process of settling back down into daily life.

And I really must have lost my mind as I have already signed up to do this again in 6 weeks.  It is with fear and excitement that I say – I can’t wait!