Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Night With the Firefly

painting (c) robin street-morris

A Night With the Firefly

The moon shines like a lamp
the air cool and still
out on the deep sea of lawn
confidential figures converse and chuckle
"Let's go," my friend whispers
and clasps my hand
We plunge in
When we arrive at those figures
they peer up at us, grinning
"Please," my teacher says,
"Join us,"
We settle onto the
dew-laden lawn
For an hour I listen
to words flow around me
and I capture this moment
here with my beloved teacher,
like cupped hands
sheltering a firefly
And I know that when we stand
and brush off our clothes
I have soaked in the light
imprinted this memory
deep in my heart
and shall drop my hands
and release the firefly
to continue its quest for the moon.
Goodnight unto you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Time Machine

Preface: I have long considered my journal a window to which I can glimpse a world that has already passed. Five years ago, I wrote the following journal entry at the age of 16, which takes place in Hilo, Hawaii. So, glimpse this!

After a crazy day, Kisore and I snuggle into our sleeping bags in the guest house, murmuring our thoughts on the Bhagavad-Gita. We're just about to drift off when -

"Giriraj! Oh, Giriraj! Where are you?" Gopa calls out for her seven-year-old nephew, far away.

Kisore says, "Well, at least it's Krishna's name,"

The blood slows in our veins and our muscles relax... I smile contentedly, like I've done the entire day.

"GIRIRAJ, WHERE ARE YOU?" Gopa cries again.

Kisore shoots up from bed. "I'm getting worried. What happened? I'm going down there,"

Just then, Govinda and Radhika huff up the stairs. "Have you seen Giriraj?"

"No, what happened?"

"We were upstairs at Jagadhatri's talking when we saw Giriraj slip out the door. We thought he was just going downstairs. Then we realized how quiet it was. We went down to check on him, but nobody was home."

"But what about Gaurangi, his mother?"

"She had left ten minutes earlier. And it was so quiet."

"Oh my god, is there anything we can do to help?" Kisore gasps.

"I-I guess. We have to look for him again... we already searched the neighborhood and my mom checked downtown," Govinda says. Her hands twist the edge of her shawl.

"You can't get a hold of Gaurangi?" I ask, concerned but still a little skeptical.

"No, she's not home yet. No cell phone," Govinda replies.

So I stumble out the door in half-on tennis shoes, pajamas, and a chaddar, incredulous and sighing. What could I possibly do? But it would be unspeakably rude to roll my eyes and just go back to bed.

At Jagadhatri's, the air is filled with stifled panic. Shikandi, Giriraj's grandmother, shrieks to "call 911!" as she gets in the car with Gopa to search the neighborhood. That scream shoots adrenaline to my toes and fingertips.

Soon, the cops arrive... and more cops arrive. Neighbor by neighbor, three blocks switch on their lights, asking what he looks like, learning to pronounce his name, some even grabbing flashlights to join in on the search as two ambulances arrive and even a firetruck. Why on earth we would need a firetruck for a missing child baffles me and awes me at the same time.

It's been an hour... two hours... the rescue team still can't get hold of Giriraj's parents. The cops head out to their house, which is over an hour away.

Around 11:30pm, I'm downstairs at the house where it all started, where the little boy had disappeared, and I feel scared and helpless, alone and in my pajamas. Forty policemen are combing the area for the fifth time, the entire neighborhood calling out "Giriraj! Giriraj!" and I hear that they're going to send for a helicopter to search the river if nothing happens soon.

And then, from upstairs: "Sridham?" I sit up, tense. Sridham is Giriraj's father. "What? Giriraj is with you? Okay..."

I jump with a whoop and this huge sensation of relief.

"WE FOUND HIM!!" Gopa cries out from above me on the porch as I dash to the street. Giriraj is safe!! I'm bent on finding Kisore and dragging her gleefully back to the guest house to just go to bed!

As I reach the street, I stop dead, a horrific, horrific sense of embarrassment flooding me.

Oh. My. God. The entire neighborhood.

"The entire neighborhood!" I exclaim, making my way up to Kisore. I grab her arm and pull her up the street - she calls out, "Sorry! Sorry! Goodnight!!" I want to strangle her! Now we REALLY sound like two hare-brained flops of teenagers.

But I laugh the whole way, "I'm not related, I'm not related..."

The stars twinkle bright as we collapse onto our bed, hot and awake. How crazy! We stay up a bit more, discussing the insanity of it all.

And I laugh, like I have all day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rumi's Persuasion

Life rolls so sweetly lately... and yet I feel such an aching need for hard-core spiritual guidance. Someone to guide me with deep compassion, and someone to even chastise me.

I close myself off to guidance sometimes. I offer my dead heart, I offer dry, hypocritical prayer, I break my vows, and my doubts are hundred-fold. Yet Krishna... ah, Krishna in His mercy accepts my terrible coin.

I pray to be a beggar.

What Is Bounty Without a Beggar?

What is bounty without a beggar? Generosity without a guest?
Be beggar and guest; for beauty is seeking a mirror,
water is crying for a thirsty man.
A beggar shows his blindness and palsy, he does not say,
"Give me bread, O, people! I am a rich man with
granaries and palaces!"
Bring a hundred sacks of gold and God will say, "Bring the heart."
And if you bring a dead heart carried like a coffin on your
shoulders, God will say, "O, cheat! Is this a graveyard?
Bring the live heart! Bring the live heart!"
If you haven't any knowledge and only opinions, have good
opinions about God. This is the way.
If you can only crawl, crawl to Him.
If you cannot pray sincerely, offer your dry, hypocritical,
agnostic prayer; for God in His mercy accepts bad coin.
If you have a hundred doubts of God, make them into ninety
doubts. This is the way.
O, Seeker! Though you have broken your vows a hundred times,
come again! come again! For God has said, "Though you
are on high or in the pit consider me, for I am the Way."

- Excerpt of a poem by Jalaluddin Rumi

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The True Rush

We load our stuff - luggage, Deities, bhoga, pots, propane stove - onto the two boats. When we motor away onto the lake, wonder and awe seeps into my body. I behold a magnificent sunset on the volcanoes, misty far-off valleys, jungle shores, the glassy lake we glide over, and the wind fills my lungs. I am in a tucked-away corner of the world.

When we approach and anchor at the docks, a glowing woman in a sari and tilak greets us. The mood is complete when the other boat pulls in and they're rocking out to a beautiful bhajan, filling the air with Krishna's name.

After we set our backpacks down in our rooms, we head down in the quiet evening to the glowing templeroom.

We array in one giant circle on the warm wooden floors beneath a vaulted roof of palms.

Manu then introduces us to our Japa Retreat facilitators: Divyambara, Purusha Shukta, and Giri Govardhan. I feel a rush in my veins very unlike the rush from exclaiming over my room or even speeding over the lake. No, this is a rush to draw closer to the holy name.

We end our orientation with a kirtan. Still riding the high of such an exhilarating day, I expecting a rousing, get-up-and-dance kirtan.

I am softly caught by surprise. Someone dims the lights down low and lights candles for our beautiful Bus Tour Gaura Nitai deities. Divyambara begins to sing. Her voice and soft emotion sends chills down my spine.

Aaaahhh... the Japa Retreat has begun.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Join Me On My Meander

(This is an entry for taking photos - in your mind. Taken straight from my Mexico journal, the following post is simply here to transport you...)

We near our destination as the sun turns golden and begins its descent. We abandoned civilization a long time ago; our bus zigzags on a crazy mountain road through ash-green forests. At one point, the ocean reveals herself in a staggering, breathtaking view - in which the entire Tour gasps - and then we're plunged back into the roads.

We reach the bottom of the mountain, pass a security checkpoint (military men stomp in and stomp out in their boots, then direct us to the nearest beach with a grin and a wave), and we then drive down some even MORE outlandishly OUT-THERE roads. And all this is going on in a surreal golden light, as if we're in a dream.

We pull in. When I climb out, Manu calls, "Go, go! You only have two hours 'til the sun sets, then we gotta go! Use your time wisely,"

I am greeted by a villager pulling water from his stone well for his vibrant, pushy goats. Chickens dash about. Thatched huts surround me in a sweeping semicircle.
I hear the waves crash in the distance and the salt on my skin and tongue. I walk to the ocean, feeling the cool sand in my toes, the wind in my hair. As I emerge from the little village of thatched houses, my jaw softly drops in wonder.

The ocean. The mountains. The setting sun. The beach stretches off to my left to meet the towering mountain in the distance - the one we just drove down - and to my right the sun sets on another majestic mountain. And here we are in the valley, facing out to the deep blue Pacific and her shimmering waves.

After so many straight days of traveling, I feel peace flow through my veins. I dash into the amazing water, then take off sprinting. I run and run amongst the waves until I bend over catching my breath, laughing.

I look back to everyone else swimming, tiny figures in the distance. The sun is setting behind them, and I revel how the misty air seems suffused with gold, silhouetting those who walk amidst the sand.

I continue on, breathing in... breathing out, soaking in every moment. I know: soon it will be back to the bus and more traveling.

I then observe a fascinating work of art in nature, forming before my very eyes. As the wind blows across the sand, ripples and rivulets form. I watch, entranced, as the sand then channels through these rivulets like sashes of gold, whispering, rising to life then melting away.

As I continue on my japa walk, two villagers on horses - riding bareback - gallop past me, their shirts clinging to their chests, the horses' manes and tails streaming behind them like banners. They ride off into the distance, becoming tiny figures then finally disappearing. I wonder what it would be like to be that free - the villager OR the horse. Imagine living so deeply in nature.

When I return from my very long meander down the beach, the sun has set and the valley is filled with a soft twilight glow. Everyone has left the beach except for a crew of jolly potwashers. I join their company and capture some photos, laughing and chatting, and I feel my spirit soften after such intensity of this first week of the Tour.

As we board the rumbling bus in the cool, soft blue evening, I turn around to gaze out over the thatched roofs to the empty sky that hovers over the sand and ocean, the stars emerging. A thought runs through me like a current: I'll be back. One day, I'll return. It will be years from now, but one day I'll stand on this ocean again, appreciating nature and revelling in life.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.