Friday, March 30, 2012

Chills


Chills are running all up and down my body as I gaze upon this picture of Srila Prabhupad.

I whisper the words, "You are my refuge, Srila Prabhupad. Thank you." 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Bliss of Devotion: Bharatanatyam


Bharatanatyam (bha-ra-ta-nat-yam) is an ancient Indian classical dance form. I have been trying to write a blog post about my love of this dance for years. Literally years - I have written several posts from years ago that are still in draft form.

And yet in writing this series on bliss, I knew that I needed to write about bharatanatyam. Maybe writing about my love of this art form is such a challenge because it's so close to my heart.

So I shall begin at where all great love stories begin - the moment the soul sets on fire. In my very first dance class at the age of 19, I knew I would be dancing this ancient art form for the rest of my life. Even when I faced foot surgery and was forced to stop my studies for two years, my fire never died.

The other part of my love story was when I donned my jewelry and dance costume for the first time. I transformed into a queen. It's not every day that a 21st century girl gets to be a queen.

When I wear the temple jewelry of a dancer and invoke the presence of the gods, I know that performing bharatanatyam is truly like no other experience on earth.

On the flipside, consider that hours, months, and years of a dancer's life are poured into those 10 (sometimes 20) minutes of a performance. I personally feel that there is no way for me to reach any level of excellence without experiencing utter devotion to God in my practice. I am always seeking the perfection in my lines, my movements, my expression, and yet I never, ever reach it. So humbling and so beautiful.

For me, there is simply no other reason to dance than to serve God, to offer my body, mind, and soul to Krishna.


I offer my love and respect to Anapayini dasi (front and center above, below), who is my dance guru, for without her the fire would not be burning within my heart. 









(watch this dance on youtube:  http://youtu.be/wpPDRqe5AV0)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Bliss of Devotion: Singing

Butterflies set in days before I was scheduled to sing for the 12 Hour Kirtan event in Miami this weekend. I felt nervous. Unprepared. My head knew I was singing as a service, but my heart was resisting. Year after year I go through this queasiness. Sigh. Would the Lord give me the shakti to lead others in a meditation on the holy name?

The morning before my fateful hour arrived, I sat inside the templeroom quite calmly. Inside, though, I was frantically praying: Krishna, please allow me to sing with love, humility, and soul. Allow me to sing from my heart as a service. I can't do this without Your grace.  

When I settled in front of the microphone and sang the first mantra, an unearthly peace washed over my whole body. The butterflies went away. The only thing existing was the holy name and those absorbed in the holy name.

When the deep and soulful kirtan came to a close, I experienced this: Singing is my bliss.

So unexpectedly, singing is my bliss. I feel so much joy when singing that sometimes I smile so big that I must resist the urge to laugh uncontrollably, especially when I connect with the other musicians.

Leading kirtan is such an enigma to me - I tend to always feel so shy about singing, and yet I uncover so much bliss when I do. I feel so deeply absorbed in the holy name and being present, here in the moment, of service to everyone.

My next prayers, I think, will definitely include: My dear Lord, when leading a kirtan please protect me from the giggles.



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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Bliss of Devotion: Kirtan

The Bliss of Devotion: Kirtan

"Follow your bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Last summer I was given the honor of being interviewed for the documentary Women of Bhakti, which will be premiering this summer.





(to watch it full screen: http://youtu.be/rhXgUjwnGr0)

Something magical happened for me this afternoon as I watched this trailer over and over. Bliss entered my heart! In the minute and forty-two seconds of this trailer, I felt as though my soul was resonating with a warm hum.

So for the next several posts, I feel inspired to share my bliss with you all. I'm not talking peace, enjoyment, or a thrill. I'm talking bliss - an experience that resonates all the way to the soul and throughout the body.

I'll begin with kirtan.

Since I was born, the way I have been given to connect with the Lord with love is through chanting His holy names. Last summer, amidst the rolling mountains of West Virginia in a spiritual community called New Vrindavan, I attended a magnificent celebration of the holy name called The 24 Hour Kirtan.

In the afternoon of the first day, a woman by the name of Acyuta dasi began to sing. I let myself get swept away in the music. I danced with other women in circles, and we played off each other in exquisite moves and expressions. Every note of the kirtan and every beat of the drum we followed with our bodies. Our smiles encompassed our entire face as we sang the holy name.

When Acyuta lifted her voice into an undulating improvisation, the drummers climbed in rhythm and we dancers began to spin and spin, our skirts rippling around us like blossoming flowers. The third or fourth time this crescendo of drums and voices and sheer energy rose in the kirtan, I was spinning and spinning and spinning. I raised my arms to the sky in surrender.

Euphoria washed over and around me in waves. Every bone in my body and every fiber in my being was singing and singing. I felt as though great shafts of light were playing through me and around me and the holy name was whirling around me in golden ribbons.

The words kept whirling through me: "There must be a God, and I must be a spirit soul. There is no way I could feel this kind of bliss without God. This is it. This is it. God must be real. And the holy name must be for real. This is my bliss. This is my bliss."

I am realizing that God is beyond vows and austerity, God transcends any particular path, God is beyond definition.

Loving God is about bliss.

So follow your bliss.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Humbled

About two weeks ago, I felt deeply provoked with anger, this white-hot rage.

I was in the computer lab at school. I opened my journal to write and write and write - I allowed myself to express the most hateful, spiteful words. I did not want to get up and leave the lab and actually I felt grateful to be surrounded by quiet. I felt no need to scream or to sob or run 5 miles. The anger rushed through me in tidal waves and I kept breathing and writing.

I read what I had written in my journal over and over and over. I felt this deep need to share this entry with someone, I needed it to be received by someone who would unequivocally accept my experience. So I transcribed the entry and sent it to my life coach and guide, Malini dasi.

A whole other experience descended upon me to read over the entry with the intention of sharing it. There in the computer lab, I was faced with the anger and hatred and pain in my heart, and that another human being would be witness to this.

Silent tears poured down my face.

In my experience of anger, there's a fall-out. And sure enough, the fall-out hit me as I picked up my things and headed out to my next class. I cried the whole way. I felt devastated. I felt smothered in that familiar experience - that I'm unlovable, I'm a monster, dangerous, unpredictable.

The next morning, the fall-out was still there. By God's grace, I was given the shelter of watching an Islamic song in praise of Allah. I wept and wept as I watched it over and over again, taking shelter in God's grace, His love and forgiveness. I surrendered my pain. I watched the song until the tears ceased to flow.

I felt clean. I feel clean.

From that fateful evening two weeks ago, I have felt so deeply humbled to experience my frailties. I am also realizing that lust, anger, greed, pride, illusion, envy and hate can never be transcended by being shoved away, pushed away, run away from.

I am finding that the only shelter is to embrace my frailties and allow Krishna to carry me.

My dear Lord, please carry me. In this vast ocean of pain, I am drowning and I can't swim. Please carry me. Only within Your arms do I find peace.

"But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have." - Bhagavad Gita, 9.22



link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhwdEtO5fJE


To write is to dare the soul. So write.