Stop Swimming, Swami
Are there words?
What are the words?
Things continue to unravel.
Each day brings a new layer of complexities.
I have been practicing leaning toward simple,
Keeping it as simple as I can.
I have not been terribly successful.
As things seem to constrict around me,
I speed up.
I go faster.
Speeding up seems to give me the
Illusion of control.
Today I got stopped by a West Stockbridge policeman.
It appears I was driving 55-mph in a 25-mph zone.
As soon as he pulled me over, I started to cry.
I’m not a crier, particularly.
By the time he got to my car, I was sobbing.
Without any attempt
To dodge my civic responsibility.
He stopped next to my window.
I blurted out some of the details of my moment:
“Wife with cancer—lost my job…”
He stood there, somewhat puzzled, quiet.
He took my license and registration and walked back to his car.
I sobbed some more,
Feeling good and sorry
When he returned, he handed me my license
Gave me a “verbal warning,”
Which beat the $250
And then he offered me the kindest,
The most generous talk
Telling me that if I didn’t
Slow down and take care of myself,
I couldn’t be there for my spouse.
Like, what I might tell you guys.
He was so generous
And so right-on
In his kind attentiveness,
His advice was so
What I needed,
Hand-picked by the universe,
We blessed each other.
I drove away,
It is a time of great upheaval.
Or so it feels.
I think of Swami Kripalu.
Although I never met him, he had passed before I became part of Kripalu,
Clearly, he lives in my psyche.
I remember this wonderous tale from his days
As a young swami, wandering through the Indian countryside.
Here is the story, recounted by Shobhan Richard Faulds, from his fantastic book, Dharma Then Moksha, The Untold Story of Swami Kripalu:
“One day in 1954, engaged in his practices, Swami Kripalu wandered away from his residence, lost in the world of rapturous state. He ended up naked in the neighboring village, where devotees took him to a temple on the banks of the Narmada. A few hours passed when Swami Kripalu, who had been sitting quietly in meditation wrapped in a blanket, suddenly stood up and without any warning, dove into the river.
The Narmada is one of India’s largest rivers and it was monsoon season. The waters were surging with strong currents and Swami Kripalu was instantly carried away. The villagers formed a search party, running along the riverbank, their lanterns darting through the night like fireflies.
Meanwhile Swami Kripalu was being swept downstream, tossed about by a raging current and frequently pulled under water. For some time, he struggled with all his might to stay afloat and to keep from drowning. Having eaten and slept little for days, exhaustion began to overtake him. His hands and feet grew numb.
Certain he was facing death, Swami Kripalu cried out in desperation to his guru, ‘I am drowning. Please save me.” Miraculously this plea brought an immediate response, a voice from the darkness that Swami Kripalu could somehow hear over the roar of the river.
SWAMI. STOP SWIMMING.
Convinced his mind was failing he kept right on struggling, but he heard the message repeated a second time:
SWAMI. STOP SWIMMING. SURRENDER.
Recognizing his guru’s voice, Swami Kripalu experienced a moment of relief. Gathering his courage, he relinquished any efforts to stay above the water. As soon as he relinquished control, his body assumed fish pose and began breathing in a way that swelled his abdomen with air. Now buoyant, he floated atop the raging torrent. When the river broadened, he drifted with the slowing current, reveling in a state of bliss and chanting a mantra that spontaneously came to him.*
In the morning he was found by the search party—they were unable to believe their eyes that they saw him alive and unscathed. Swami Kripalu took this harrowing experience as a direct message from his guru that it was safe to surrender to the flood of energy cursing through his system.
*This is mantra that Swami Kripalu repeated for the rest of his life:
Om Namah Gurave, Satchitananda Murtaye, Namastasmai, Namastasmai, Namastasmai, Namo Namah.
It translates as:
Oh, Lord Shiva, I bow to you in the form of the guru, embodiment of being, consciousness and bliss, to Thee I bow, to Thee I bow, to Thee I bow, respectfully.
To me, it is a mantra of surrender.
To me, It means, as best I can, I will stop. Slow down. And be right here. With life. As You Give Me.
And here is our very own Bhavani Lorraine Nelson chanting Swami Kripalu’s lifelong chant. Relax, breath, and enjoy:
Going faster doesn’t help
Trying to keep above the fray
Is not skillful
Relaxing into what is,
Surrendering into the current
Of the moment,
That is the freedom,
That is the possibility,
That is my choice.
That is my practice.
And I am so imperfectly
What would surrender look like for you? It doesn’t have to be throwing yourself into the torrential river and thrusting yourself forward into a demonstration.
What can you do to soften around what is, to relax into what is, to just stop rushing hither and tither?
For me, I am committed, COMMITTED to attending to the speed limits, to drive the speed it is directed that I drive.
I am surrendering into the speed limits of Berkshire County. I can do that. I can practice that.
What will you practice? Keep it simple and easy and, just like on the yoga mat, practice and relax around the sensations of your asana of surrender.
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