The area around the Temple has been undergoing some major renovations. The electrical lines are being dug up to repair the lights that line the pathway. It had resulted in what can most clearly be described as a moat around a part of the temple. The assertion that bears can swim made my suggestion of putting one of these moats around the garden rather superfluous. What about a moat filled with alligators? But I digress. Since this particular repair project has to do with electricity the lights that usually flood the pathway had been turned off, the breaker flipped, while this work was going on. Subsequent nights have included extra lighting being brought in for satsang goers to find their way in the dark, but the first night of the overturned earth brought me some confusion as I tried to turn the lights on while stumbling over mounds of earth – luckily at that time the moat hadn’t yet been completed.
I can’t help but think what this project could mean for me symbolically. The Temple of Divine Light, the place I go to worship, the place that taps me into the very same place within myself. What around my sacred core is being turned up, renovated in order to shine the Light even more brightly? There’s been a sort of unevenness within me; I can relate to these mounds of earth. I’ve been projecting all sorts of expectations I think others have of me outwards. Recently I realized just how much I want to do everything, help everywhere, serve anyone. I do this to the exhaustion and expense of myself. I’m learning through my karma yoga to not act solely on the basis of what I think others need from me, but to engage with the world under the new assumption that others expect me to put my own needs first. Somehow having this realization as I jump to pull out the step ladder at the mere mention of a light being out makes me understand this concept within myself way more than internal theorizing would. Oh Karma Yoga, you slay me. Of course I *can* change a lightbulb, I could also do a whole heck of a lot of other things. Right now my tasks don’t include changing light bulbs, they include other things that are sometimes more time-sensitive than replacing a single bulb in a room with three other bright lights.
Yes, I recognize the irony of using an example of lighting in both the Temple work and my Karma Yoga. I swear I didn’t do it on purpose. Though that’s how this mystery of awareness seems to work: symbolism and metaphor intertwining and relating to one another in order for me to truly get the message. The message I’m getting is to prioritize my own work at a more elevated level than I’ve been giving it. At the Ashram we talk about doing what needs to be done. I’m realizing more and more that I have the internal authority to understand what it is that needs to be done. With shifts in the office personnel there is the unevenness I see mirrored back at me when I walk to the Temple. I’m settling into a new understanding of what evenness really means; finding it within myself and offering it back to me.
The work at the Temple is almost complete, the lines have been laid and the moat has been filled in. The Lights are just waiting to be ready to shine. I’m allowing the unevenness to gradually sink and settle into a manageable grade and know that rather than performing for the sake of someone else, the work I put in is truly my own effort; my own effort and all for the sake of the Divine.
There’s this moment during breakfast when the noise stops. When people have gathered their porridge and tea, pulled their chairs in to the table, and are sitting down in sweet sweet silence to eat. The other day that moment came around 8:14 and lasted until about 8:18. The people who got to the dining room first were finishing up as the people who came later settled into their tables. Those four minutes are pretty blissful. The soothing refrain of the mantra playing gently over the sound system, the warm apple juice in my mug complementing my millet and muesli – it all feels so complete.
There are these little moments like that throughout the day – these moments when the noise stops. It’s not just the physical noise that the vibrations those little hairs nestled deep within my inner ear sway back and forth to; it’s the noise of mental chatter, too. Those moments when I’m plugging away at data clean-up in preparation for our switch to a new software or walking in the forest placing one foot in front of the other. Those moments where I am completely present with what it is that I am doing. This software switch has been a decade in waiting. This week a rep from the company who will train us when we make the switch in December came to meet with the different areas this new program will affect. If we utilize it correctly that could be every area of the Ashram. As I focus on my part of preparing for this switch – marking thousands of old products we don’t sell anymore so they don’t get imported into the new system – I can’t help but think of the bigger picture. Maybe that’s what makes the mundane task so able to hold my attention, so able to stop those mental conversations with their potential to go round and round my head. It’s the knowing that what I do is connected to the broader vision of the Ashram. And maybe it’s also the mantra Satya is playing on her computer behind me.
The symbolism is hard to escape from: I’m clearing out the old to make a switch to a revolutionary new program even more useful. There’s no reason to hang onto outdated information, I can earmark it and leave it behind. What else can I do that with in my life? I can’t help but think about the ways I relate to people. I’ve been learning about my caretaking propensity and how I’ve often directed that energy outwards. The last few months I’ve been learning how to turn that loving, caretaking attitude towards myself. With every sock pair I fold I feel like I’m creating a more organized morning for myself, with every 2-breath break from work I take to be still and re-centre I know I’m dialoguing with my Higher Self. It feels pretty good to be loved by me. Once I can come from a clear, strong place I’m able to give so much more authentically. It’s not out of neediness or desire for approval; it’s out of genuine desire to serve. Just as I alter the data in the current system to not be inputted into the new one, rather than harshly extract old bits of me out, I can gently leave them behind and be filled with a new perspective on what ‘taking care’ truly means.
The first week that Swami Radha was in India with her Guru, Swami Sivananda, he poured milk into a cup of coffee that was before them. The milk began to fill to the rim of the cup. He didn’t stop. He kept pouring milk into the coffee until the cup overflowed. Eventually it was impossible to tell that the cup had ever held coffee, it was now a container holding pure creamy milk. I’d read and heard this story dozens of times but only recently did it actually penetrate into me what it means. It means I don’t have to stop and think about how the coffee got there. It means I can focus on the Light and the dark will naturally dissolve away. The more Light there is the more opportunities for present awareness. In those moments I find silence.
I sit in those moments of silence. The smooth way my spoon can scoop up millet and raisins, the way my thought process can deduce we’ll never order certain products again, or the way I stop and listen to what it is I need in any particular moment. I take stock in those moments and am truly able to be in touch with myself. Those moments where I can be still and know that I am God.