Sunday, September 21, 2014

Room Without A Roof

Images from yesterday's wedding play through my mind in snippets of magic.

The mysticism of the ceremony,
the tears of those present,
Jai's sober expression as he vowed to protect Syama,
the grins of pure joy of everyone (yes, everyone) dancing in kirtan,
Syama's effulgent smile and flaring skirt as she twirled,
the rooftop bedecked with white tents
and white globes
and golden lights,
the undulating skyscape of New York City glittering below us,
laughing so hard I can't breathe,
the couple's first dance,
everyone dancing slow,
then fast, to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough,"
the delicious lemon poppyseed and chocolate cakes,
helping clean up,
dancing to "Happy."

Although it's popular, I heard the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams for the first time last night. The lyrics sent chills down my spine.

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

It was a reminder that the soul's nature is to be happy. There's no hard work to it. It's just about being alive, feeling like a "room without a roof." All day, I felt as though that day was about being happy. Let the couple be happy, let the guests be happy, let God be happy.

Let go.

Let happiness in.

It's so easy.

Just BE.

That's the truth.

When I danced to the song "Happy" at the end of the night, the part of the song that kept coming, "Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof," was so perfect, as I and everyone else was on the rooftop of the Bhakti Center and only a thin tent separated us from a limitless sky.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Live on Purpose

I read the above sign on the train when I sat down. The message registered as barely a blip, like all other advertising in New York City. Then I opened my book and began to read; the train picked up speed, heading to the next stop.

Suddenly, two uniformed police officers strode through the train, guided by an older man. I looked up from my book. The man pointed at a backpack that was on the ground right across from me.

"Is this anyone's bag?" The officer's voice rang out in the train.

Everyone fell quiet, shaking their heads. The women who were sitting on the seat nearby the abandoned backpack scooted away.

The officers looked around, confirming that no one owned the bag. I watched the scene unfold, my heart pounding a bit. It's true, the bag had just been sitting there. It was some cutesy backpack, a leopard print I believe. But the two officers surrounded it now, their energy taut like wires. Definitely not cutesy now.

I resisted the urge to scramble away, walk away, run away. But what could I do? I was on this moving train. In those few moments when the officers examined the bag, I had this realization that maybe there was a bomb in there, about to explode at any moment.

There was nothing I could do about it. Although I experienced fear, I also experienced this eerie calm, that somehow if this is my fate, it is what it is.

When the train slowed to a stop, one officer stepped out of the train and the other cautiously unzipped the bag, as if touching a wild tiger. I could feel all the passengers watching, holding their breaths.

The officer unzipped the bag with one final tug.


Everyone let out a collective breath. The officer carried the bag out of the train, joining her comrade. Then the train boarded more passengers and we moved on.

It was not a laughing matter about this leopard-print backpack - after all, there have been numerous incidents of such episodes that involved an abandoned bag which were deadly.

There is a verse in the scripture Srimad Bhagavatam that describes how in this material world there is danger at every step. I had no idea that when I got onto the train that day that maybe that day was my last. I am sure that anyone who has ever been involved in a lethal terrorist attack, or a plane accident, or even a car accident had no idea that that day was the last day of their lives.

Sometimes it takes danger or an accident to stop living on accident and start living on purpose. Every day, may I and may we live on purpose.

And may the owner of that bag and those sneakers get her stuff back. It was a cute bag. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Krishna-shaped Hole

For as long as I can remember, ever since I was a little girl, I have always had this longing for something or someone. Something or someone is missing from my life. It's either new clothes, a temple, a community, adventurous travels, friends, a husband, an education, a house, a car, money, spiritual initiation, a guru.



And when I finally get what I want, I long for something else, I long for someone else. This longing has been a curse and a blessing. A curse when I long for material things, because I get consumed with a fire that burns me up. A blessing when I long for spiritual things, because I get consumed with a fire that lights my soul. 

Lately I have been consumed with a longing for furniture. Sounds silly, but it's true. I have this intense desire to really just get settled into where I live - I've been wandering the world for so very long and now I just want to live in. one. place. One. Place. Getting the perfect bed and curtains is a product of this longing for home. But it's a feverish search, my ideas keep shifting and changing, I feel consumed and burnt out. 

Lately I have also been missing Radha Shyamasundar from New Raman Reti. There's an ache in my chest of longing. I miss singing for Them, putting away Their clothes, dancing for Them, and just being within Their glowing glance. It's this ache that gets more painful and also sweeter. I want to forget the ache, distract myself, but at the same time I know that it's sweet. I feel that it's sweet.

My spiritual master Radhanath Swami once told me, "There's a Krishna-shaped hole in your heart and no one will be able to fill that hole - not your parents, not a husband, not me. Only Krishna."  

For the past several months, whenever I have found it hard to get to sleep, I call into my mind's eye the faces of Radhe Shyam. I meditate upon Their forms and soon enough my heart and mind are at ease and I find myself drifting off to sleep. Radhe Shyam fill that custom-made hole in my heart. And for that window of time, my longing for someone or something is quieted and my soul rests.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Month in the Life

The month of August, 2014, has been a crazy one indeed. Amazing and crazy. I thought instead of telling you I'd simply show you. 

I got to dress Sri Radha Govinda, the worshipful Lords of Mother Kaulini. 

I moved into my new place in Brooklyn, New York. Ghanashyam and I painted my room... and gave it a caramel-colored accent wall. 

A church spire peeping over the aboveground subway line. 

The view every time I head over on the train to Manhattan

Brooklyn College's historical campus 

Getting my ID! 

 Ghanashyam's grandparents on their wedding day in 1945 - sixty-nine years ago

 I got hired at an upscale chocolate shop on Wall Street (my professional development is to taste these)

 The sight I see when I head home from work in the evenings

 Prayers on the street

Spending some evenings with Ghanashyam

 A dash of green amidst gray

 The public indoor space where I have lunch while at work

Washington Memorial

 A gift from Ghanashyam. Purple means "enchantment"

I walked out of my door one day and lo and behold who was walking in my neighborhood park but the beautiful Jayadwaita Swami


If you'd like to read about my month, a play-by-play as I write every day, feel free to check out my sister site: 30dayxray.blogspot.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

God's Temple

Several years ago, in the evening a whole busload of devotees all went swimming in the ocean, and I was in bliss! Ah, the ocean! It had been almost a year since I'd frolicked in the waves. I then went on a very long, dancing and frolicking walk along the shore.

For the first time in a long time, to the crashing waves I sang "Mama Mana Mandire." I used to sing this song so often - it would invoke a very special mood for me.

When I used to live in Hawaii, there was no temple on my island. As a teenager and the years went by, I began to despair that I would ever be around a temple and devotee association again. One day I listened to Rasa's "Mama Mana Mandire" track, and I was stunned. What did this song mean? I did a Google search: the temple of my heart.

I used to bikeride in the evenings out to this crest on the mountain that overlooked the city of Kailua-Kona. I would take in the undulating valleys, glistening blue bays, and the ocean would wrap around the island. I would watch the magnificent, glorious sunset every evening, and I began to sing this song. "This is my temple."

A tradition grew. Whenever I felt awed and humbled by the beauty of nature, I would sing this song. I began to be absolutely immersed in the everyday experience of being in the majesty of God's temple.

When I moved to live within the devotional community of Alachua, I lost touch with the song, that longing.

But when I sang and danced amidst the ocean waves at sunset on the Atlantic Ocean, I traveled back in time. I meditated on that deep feeling that God is everywhere. I can feel Him, I can experience Him. I don't need a building to worship Him. He is here in my heart and He is also all around me.

That longing to be around the devotees when I was in Hawaii was so very, very special. Every single day, my desire became only more and more intense, my longing more and more powerful. I pray that this longing may always reside within my heart. Always.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reflections on the Soul

January 3rd, 2013

Today I went to Tim Carter's ash immersion ceremony.

Our small party took a boat to the other side of the sacred river Ganga. When the actual ceremony began, Tim's family members gathered around and the ashes were brought out. I had been asked to lead everyone in singing, so I began to sing the Hare Krishna melody that Lilananda Prabhu had composed in honor of Tim. Seeing those ashes of Tim felt strange. The pile of ashes was gray and formless.

Those ashes couldn't be Tim. They couldn't.

Tim was in the melody I was singing.

Nevertheless, there was something so complete and powerful about the ceremony, recognizing this deep need for closure, to release a soul to Krishna. When Jananivas Prabhu packed mud around the ashes and poured and sprinkled different substances on the ashes, I felt as though Tim was getting cooled from a high fever. Like, "Ahhh... at last, you're letting me go."

There was a timeless moment when I stood on the banks of the river, the wind blew my sari, and the sun glinted off the water and shone on my face. I watched the sacred ceremony unfold to put Tim to rest. I had a moment of realizing that we will all die, our bodies will all become ash one day. Memories of us will also fade.

There must be a soul. There must be a soul, an eternal soul that is bright and beautiful and eternal.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Love

For the past 8 months or so, I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man by the name of Ghanashyam. He has met my parents and sister, and I've met his parents, siblings, and extended family in the US. The other day, he told me that his grandparents wanted to meet me.

So we hopped on a train to go meet them in New Jersey.

Ghanashyam's grandparents have been married for 69 years.

Sixty-nine years.

I don't think I have ever met anyone who has been married for 69 years. 

Sometimes when people say that "we'll be married forever" it almost seems like too long. I can't wrap my brain around forever.

But I can wrap my brain around 69 years because I witnessed it the other day. I witnessed two people at the age of 91 who have love, respect, and affection for each other.

I asked Ghanashyam's grandma the secret for such a long, healthy marriage. She replied, "Patience. Lots of patience." I wonder what this means because it can mean so many things. I'll stay in this question. 

I asked Ghanashyam's grandpa the secret for such a long, healthy marriage. He replied, "We like each other."

I found that profound. These two people simply like each other. They like each other's company, each other's sense of humor, each other's rhythms. Loving someone can be a little fickle, but liking someone seems to be a steady truth. 

I walked away from our lovely afternoon quite pensive. One day the grandfather or grandmother will pass away. It's hard to imagine being married for 69 years, but it's harder to imagine being married for 69 years and then one day that person is gone. So many journeys, so many lessons of love - so much so that the souls seemed to have intertwined. 

Then bam, gone. 

I feel a cavernous hole in my chest just to think about it. 

I resolve that along with cultivating my relationship with my partner in life I want to cultivate my relationship with God, with Krishna. Allow the three of us to intertwine. We'll be patient with each other. We'll like each other. We'll love each other. 

Then whether my partner and I are married for 69 years or 69 hours before death comes for one or both of us, there is no cavernous hole of sorrow but an overflowing cup of joy. I pray that we may be carried beyond these material bodies by the Lord to a place where love never ends. 

To write is to dare the soul. So write.