A Winter Reminder
Once upon a time, not in Hollywood, but in the Kripalu ashram, I had what might be called an epiphany.
Wait, I’m second-guessing myself.
Epiphany—a sudden and striking realization, say the Webster Folks.
Yep, it was that.
It was an epiphany.
I remember exactly where I was sitting. The room was called the Auditorium; today it’s the Shadowbrook Room, a more inviting name, I guess.
I was sitting right smack in the middle of the “sisters’ side.”
In those days, we practiced bramacharyia, moderation of energy. For us at Kripalu, it meant the men residents of the ashram would sit with the men, would eat with the men, etc. And we women would be together in all activities, too, keeping ourselves away from the potential lure and stimulation of male energy.
Let me just say, that totally worked for me.
As a lesbian, I was truly in same-sex-heaven.
So, there I sit, pen poised, a new resident of our community.
I had come for the summer, taking advantage of my teaching break. Yet summer ended months ago; I extended my Kripalu stay to one year, taking a leave of absence from the high school in which I taught, giving myself a year at Kripalu as my 40th birthday present.
The plan was, to spend one year at Kripalu.
That was 31 years ago.
It’s hard to talk about specific topics during the Kripalu ashram days for me; one topic just flows into the next.
Swami Kripalu used to say, you pick up a bead, the entire necklace comes with it.
Back to The Story:
I sit in a back-jack, in the then-Auditorium, new disciple, all googly-eyed and thrilled and spiritually transcended beyond myself.
Our guru, whom we called Gurudev, Amrit Desai, sits on his chair before us, his beige, somewhat baggy-sleeved velour robe wrapped around his legs.
He is teaching about practice.
I am taking notes, blissed-out, as I get in his presence.
He was a charismatic and powerful fella. Sitting with him did create altered states of awareness.
Of course, in retrospect, it’s hard to determine how much of that was his creation/contribution, parallel to and dancing with our energetic contribution.
I wanted to be uplifted.
I wanted to be opened.
I wanted spiritual truth.
Together we all created that energy field.
Back to the moment:
As he talks about commitment to practice, any type of practice, yoga, meditation, dietary, exercise, he says,
“As soon as you make a commitment to a practice, you can be sure of one thing…”.
I sit straight up, thrilled to open to the answer, the solution, the remedy to my wavering commitment issues.
He continues, “You make a commitment to a practice? You can be sure of resistance.”
I become fully deflated.
The balloon of my spiritual aspirations fizzles into emptiness.
I don’t want resistance.
I want transcendence.
And, he continues to teach, even more amazingly:
“You commit to a yoga practice, you commit to meditation, you commit to diet…. The real growth isn’t even in relationship to those arenas.
The real gift and the real growth is learning how to work with yourself, to be with yourself.
The real growth is self-awareness.”
Fully-fizzled-out, fully deflated, fully disappointed, I sit there, 1990.
I wanted to fly past myself into spiritual-ness.
I wanted to jettison my human issues, to land in the Land of Grace.
I didn’t want self-awareness.
I wanted God.
Oh, dear friends, how little I understood that the way into the Land of Grace is through the human dilemma.
The human moment.
The human issue.
That’s where Grace lives.
I have learned so much since that day in 1990, sitting in the Once-Called Auditorium, all those powerful women, my sisters, around me.
And I have so much more to learn about practice.
I have so very much to learn.
Practice—as a mindful, data-gathering experiment.
Practice—as self-observation without judgment.
Practice—as the doorway back to self-kindness and self-rigor.
Practice —as the gateway to my own heart.
Here I am, in this little video, surrounded by the Berkshire-almost-snow, offering you my insights on practice, a la 2020.
Friends, take what you like and leave the rest.
May there be something in this video, any tiny tidbit or syllable that speak to you, that might open your heart to yourself today:
Like this sweet little winter bird, may we chirp and fly, explore and rest.
May we find our way forward, one wing-flap at a time.
May we ride on the wings of practice.