Choice

Pie

I have this vision of a pastry chef making dough.  The kitchen is quaint and well-organized.  Everything the chef needs is quickly within reach.  Magic happens in that kitchen.  Simply upon stepping into it one realizes that there is a vibrant energy of creative nourishment quietly present there.  In this vision the chef is standing at the often used counter, facing us, creating dough.  I wonder what s/he is making.  Perhaps a pie.  Mmmm, yes a pie would be just perfect, cherry or apple please.  The dough gets worked by light, automatic hands.  Hands that have done this thousands of times before yet are putting all possible care into every action; all possible awareness.  The flour has just been added and lumps of moist dough are outnumbered by the fluffy beige stuff.  The chef lifts it off of the counter, slightly at first, a few inches at a time, and then higher and higher up to a foot into the air.  The dough falls back onto the counter.  Now here’s the important part: the moist parts falls with an anticipatory heaviness, bursting with the potential inherent in an expertly made cherry pie.  But the rest, the flour not yet kneaded in, takes longer to return to the counter.  There is a lightness in this action.  Every time the dough is lifted the small clumps are divided away from each other and Light is between them.  The loose flour spreads and expands, forming a cloud around the chef.  A Space and Light-filled cloud that encompasses all of the little clumps.  The moist pieces of dough exist within the context of the lighter substance.

I’m applying this vision to concepts in my mind.  Perhaps the greatest learning I gained from the Yoga Development Course was to allow Space and Light.  Space for the Light.  Holding on tightly means refusing to co-operate with the course of my evolution.  Lately this means lifting the concepts I have of people I encounter daily and giving more room for new perspectives.  I’d been hung up on how much a particular person needed to change.  They needed to be less defensive and attacking, to generally see others more as on the same team as them rather than pointing out their every mistake (read: rather than pointing out *my* every mistake.)  I finally figured it out – we needed to have more team-building exercises in our office.  That way every one could see that we were all cogs in the same wheel and what didn’t get done by one person could joyfully be picked up by another.  Instead of being approached with “did you get the daily audit done?” and my reversion to defensiveness: “No, sorry I didn’t have a chance” being responded with “I’m wondering about a couple of things that didn’t make sense on it” it would look more like this: “Hey Guen!  Just so you know I happened to notice an invoice yesterday that wasn’t finished and went ahead and cleared it up.  I saw you received all that new stock and put it out already, great idea with the new sale table in the corner!” 

Random whimsical fancy aside, I excitedly told my idea to another in the office.  “We don’t have team building exercises, we have the Light” was the response I received.  Oh yeah, the Light, the standing meditation that rarely gets initiated in the office.  Besides that, we’re not here for team-building, we’re here for ourselves and so to really get to the heart of the matter, it’s me that needs to have more of a positive attitude towards others.  I can’t tell another person how they need to change to make our relationship better, the only way a relationship will change is if I change myself.  I’d been the one setting up a dichotomy between myself and others.  I’d been the one forgetting we’re all on the same team.  I lift up these projections, these moist clumps of dough, and allow the Light to filter in between them.

Sun.  Beach.  Sand.

There are no greater pleasures than the sun shining in a sky dotted with fluffy white companions it can vaporize with a steely glare and me lying in the sand with gentle waves massaging the delicate fibres of my inner ear.  And a vast expanse of mountains.  Really, none.  Ok, well maybe that peach I just ate with its ripe juiciness forcing me to contain the wedges in a cup, sitting now on my tiny balcony and a slight breeze rubbing leaves together making perfect music, spurring the rest to dance.  As William Blake, one of my favourite poets from the Romantic era put it, “arise and drink they bliss.  For everything that lives is Holy.”

I’d been feeling resentful that seemingly every Sunday, the day off for most people in the ashram, was a picture of the perfect summer day.  Thursday, however, my usual reflection day, was a recreation of the unusually rainy, long and drawn out chilly spring.  Today I have no complaints.  I have only each blissful moment of the gloriousness of nature on a July afternoon.  There are seven large daisies beside the path beneath me staring up with shining faces as if to say “look, we’re here, and we love you just as much as you love us.”

I’ve been choosing my mood lately.  It’s such a wonderful practice.  No matter what I perceive to be going on around me I can simply choose to be joyful.  Yeah, I’m 20 minutes late for dinner because I was doing the weekly deposit but why am I here if not to selflessly serve from the Highest place in me, completing tasks with quality and awareness.  So I go to dinner a little late.  Perhaps I “needed” that time to plan for a hatha class the day.  Well, guess what, the hatha class will happen.  I don’t need to stress about it.  That would only cause careless mistakes.  Instead I put together the deposit with quality and awareness and it gets done.  I’m only ever able to do exactly the thing I’m currently doing.  I’ve given up on the futility of wishing I were doing something else.  That kind of attitude only leads to life-long dissatisfaction and grass-is-always-greener syndrome.

It was with a joyful mood I gathered all of my official papers and spread them out on a dining room table after breakfast: I was going to do my taxes.  I’m surprised to admit just how gleeful this activity made me.  Sure, it was months late, but I was being responsible for my life.  I would break occasionally for a Divine Light Invocation on the sunny deck and skip back inside, sipping tea and crunching numbers.  It took a couple of hours, a couple of trips back to my room to retrieve scattered documents, and a couple of phone calls to order one last form I need to claim another 20 or so bucks back.  The realization I didn’t have all the forms left me downhearted for a short moment before I accepted being 2 minutes away from completion when they would arrive in the mail.  The internet was down so I couldn’t print them off the CRA website and though it came back on later in the morning, I accepted an almost complete job well done.

It was with an equally joyful mood I sauntered back to my room after lunch and gathered a few belongings for a sojourn over to Power Line Beach.  Finally!  A beach day!  As I lay in the sand with ants tickling my legs and my eyes lazily eating the non book-report-list book I read I allowed myself to truly feel the joyousness.  The simple truth is that this joyousness was also felt a handful of hours earlier, sipping tea in the dining room, punching numbers into a calculator, figuring out my taxes.  Every moment offers an opportunity for me to go within, seeking out that place inside my consciousness whose silence is interrupted only by random bouts of inexplicable voiceless laughter.  When I choose to tap into that place then everywhere I look will mirror it back to me and the leaves will dance to the rhythm of the squirrels’ chatter.

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July

Patterns

I’ve noticed a change in my teeth-brushing.  This shift goes deeper than the amount of times in a day I press the bristles to my teeth, though doubling that amount is a change in and of itself.  I’d discovered a pattern.  I would spend an inordinate amount of time brushing the inside of my bottom row and the outside of my top row but not very much time at all on the opposite.  The outside of my bottom row and the inside of my top row were practically neglected altogether except for a cursory swipe along them, just enough to get that fresh feeling in my mouth.  This pattern of brushing my teeth had been going on for who knows how many years, almost two decades in fact, at what age did I begin brushing my own teeth?  First the inside of my bottom row, starting on the left, moving to the right, then the outside of my top row, starting on the right and moving to the left.  What a non-sensical thing to do.  How interesting that I would pick up this.  How many other patterns in my life do I perform without even consciously thinking about them?  My intention behind brushing my teeth is to get them, and my mouth, clean.  If I simply fall into a pattern that minimally accomplishes this feat I’m brushing my teeth as if in a daze, my intention isn’t coming forth at all.  I am like a sleep-walker.  Recognizing this pattern allows me to change it and to wake up.  This, my friends, is yoga. 

Mmmmm Strawberries

On June 25th the Ashram opened its doors for the 16th annual strawberry social.  There is a used book sale (hotly anticipated in the communities of the East Shore), free strawberries and whipped cream, Ashram tea, music and tours of the Ashram.  Last year I was completely overwhelmed.  I’d been here almost two months and developed an affinity for the peace and quiet Ashram life naturally affords.  Suddenly there were people walking all over my house…with their outdoor shoes on!  And I was serving them strawberries!  This year I was much more mentally prepared.  My position was in the bookstore and so I interacted with a lot of people that day as they milled around the merchandise, purchasing some and looking at a lot more.  I wandered around the place for a bit, darting through crowds at the used book sale in the atrium and headed into the dining room.  The music was blaring, people were bustling around and strawberries were being eaten.  No matter how prepared I was this was too much!  Someone I hadn’t seen in a while, Ben an employee who had worked here but recently switched jobs, asked how I was.  “IamcreatedbyDivineLightIamsustainedbyDivineLightIamprotectedbyDivineLight…” The Diving Light mantra that had been running through my head came tumbling out, albeit slightly jokingly, through my lips too.  It is a nice community event though.  The public is always welcome to come and visit the ashram but when there is an organized event going on it makes it a lot easier for people to step over the threshold. 

The absolute best part was seeing two friends!  Vanessa et al came out – I got to meet little Beau – as well as Carrie.  It was fabulous to connect with people I know and to see them wandering about.  Remember people, my friends and family can come here anytime…..!!  Would be lovely to have some visitors.

We watched a movie afterwards, eating way too much popcorn, which added to the general hungover demeanour of most people around the ashram the next day.  Sugar and energy is enough for me to feel like I’d been drinking all night, that’s for sure.

Balconies

In High School we took band trips in grades 11 and 12 to play in a Vancouver music festival.  I don’t remember anymore if we spent every night in hotels or some with the families of bands out there but some were spent in hotels.  Band trips were basically the highlight of the year.  I realized as I aged that one reason I loved them so much was because of the community atmosphere that developed during them.  Spending literally every moment of the day in such small living spaces as the back of a bus or a hotel room with three other girls is bound to get people close.   Even closer than before.  I distinctly remember one night in Vancouver.  Most of the people were swimming in the hotel pool but I’d had enough of that and was in the hotel room enjoying a rare moment alone.  I made my way out to the balcony.  I stood there, in the cool spring Vancouver air resting my hands on the rail and watched.  I didn’t watch anything in particular; we were right across from an equally tall and imposing apartment building with each window being an opening to some arbitrary life.  I just stood and took it all in, blissful in my solitude and blissful in my observing.  After a while someone came back into the room, startled when I came out of the sliding door, not realizing I was there and my time on the balcony ended.

I offered satsang early last week and arrived quite early to do my own practice and create the space.  It had been a sunny day so the windows that surround the entire temple had been allowing the light in all day making the room a bit too warm and stuffy for my liking.  I opened one of the eight doors, one leading out onto the balcony.  I wonder now which one it represented.  Perhaps Buddhism or Ba’hai?  Maybe Christianity or Islam?  The temple’s eight doors, each representing one the world’s major religions apparently have a symbol imprinted in the structure of the temple near each door.  Somewhere out of sight but nevertheless existing, reminding me that all are welcome here.  I stepped onto the balcony to hook the door, preventing it from banging in the wind and prepared to go back in, reaching to slide the screen door shut after me.  I stopped and looked out over the balcony stepping back I rested my hands on the rail, placing one foot on top of the other.  I just stood and watched.  Watching nothing in particular; the magnificent mountain view and the way the lake glistened back at me.  Looking out at the peace that reflected back at me the peace I have inside, content in my solitude.

I was staying in a room here alone and had my own balcony.  It branched off of Krishna Kutir, the building I lived and reached out into the forest.  I would love to just walk outside and be in my own little private outdoor space.  Resting my hands on the rail and placing one foot on top of the other as is my tendency I would stand and, of course, simply watch.  The birds chirped and bee buzzed.  Life happened and I had a balcony view of it.

It reminded me of me of that winter I spent dreadfully depressed living on the fourth floor of the apartment building.  The only thing that kept me going were night-time excursions with Danny on the frozen lake and, of course, the balcony.  Having a view of the mountains and the ability to wander outside and look, just look, whenever I wanted was pretty spectacular. 

A few days ago I moved rooms.  I now live in Siva Hall where there’s no chance of me having a roommate as there is only one bed in each room.  It’s a long-term female building that can have six women total but usually only has five.  The first night I was feeling an apprehension that is foreign to me here at the ashram.  I felt new even though I’ve lived here over six months now.  I’m all unpacked now and settled in.  It’s really quite a lovely room which came with a spider plant and everything –I’d been planning on getting one.  Best of all it has this amazingly cute little balcony.  I can picture myself now, sipping tea and watching the sunset nestled into my little room by the chimney.  I just get this feeling of something I connected with years ago on those band trips, some peace and solace that balcony’s bring me, chance to see things with a different perspective.  To just stand and look.

Siva

The destroyer of obstacles Siva dances in a ring of fire as Nataraj on my altar.  My room is more compact now.  Part of the roof angles and the ceiling is too low for me to do a Light with my arms completely outstretched.  What does this mean symbolically?  I’m moving into a denser place within me.  My core, my heart centre, the essence of who I am is where I am inhabiting more and more.  Each successive move makes my room smaller and smaller as I distil a more concentrated version of who I am and who I want to be. 

Family Time

I offered satsang last night and spoke a bit of my time this week camping with my family.  It was such a treat to be able to hang out with everyone especially when the trailer Jim and Peggy bought was getting moved onto their land.  I really felt like I was part of something because of course I am always part of the family but living in a different province I don’t always get to experience that belonging feeling first hand. 

I spoke of this story of Swami Radha that I love to think about because it challenges my past actions and habits.  Before she became a Swami and was married some friends came over to her house and she could tell her husband was in a foul mood.  After they left she was struggling to reach a vase to put some flowers in.  Her husband asked her why she didn’t ask him to help her and she replied that since he was not treating his friends very well she figured he was not in a good mood and didn’t want to bother him.  He replied that those were just his friends so it didn’t matter as much if he treated them not so kindly one day, they would forgive him.  She, on the other hand, needs to be treated well all of the time because of the close relationship they had in order to not take her for granted. 

So often it seems that those we see the most get taken for granted the most and mistreated.  It was a wonderful treat for me to see my family out of the context of seeing them regularly and be able to appreciate them for the human beings they are.

Love and Light ‘til next time
Guenevere