I walked to supper scanning the sides of the road to Mandala House, the main building where the dining room is, looking for plantain. No, not the banana-type thing, but a plant that grows wild here. My roommate said it was good for ear infections. During dinner I made a mental note that I had remembered seeing some mullein down at the beach; also good for ear infections. Stopping in the kitchen before heading outside I put some fenugreek in a bag, grabbed my stuff and b-lined it to the beach. As I bent down picking the soft, fuzzy leaves I thought about how this is what got women burned at the stake centuries ago. Sometimes it feels as though there is little about my way of life right now that wouldn’t have had me labelled a witch. Chanting to Divine Mother and invoking the Light in a standing meditation at least ten times a day I certainly wouldn’t be considered “normal” to some people’s standards. Whatever normal means nowadays. With my little baggie stuffed with leaves I scooted home and put the kettle on. At least I don’t have to chop wood and start a fire: modern witchcraft with all the comforts of technological living.
Settling onto my desk looking out the windows which have, as one long-time resident put it, the best view in the entire ashram, I gently sipped my tea. Down on the path I saw Swami Radhananda and Swami Lalitananda going for a walk. I love seeing them around; moving as people with the intentional awareness that can only come from decades of spiritual practice. That day they had a third part joining them. I wondered who it was? Before I could catch a glimpse of the face they’d disappeared. Seconds later I saw that they actually had four in their convoy, Mr. Forrest Kitty came prancing up the road to follow them. Like Radhananda, I rarely see him away from Many Mansion, their home. How adorable!
It’s a few days later and it’s time for my walk. I’d been neglecting myself; sitting indoors all day on my office chair, rarely feeling the sun on my face. It was time for a change. I head out on my lunch break. My target is the stop sign. It’s a short ride from the Ferry to the Ashram. Turning off the road to Riondel one would eventually get here. There are a few private properties and a gravel pit operation along the way but the ashram is the highlight of Walkers Landing road. I crest the last hill and see the stop sign in the distance, my symbolic marker for the outside world. I stare at the sign, not the stop sign, but the road name sign above it: “Walkers Landing”. Yeah, that’s what this place is, I think to myself, a landing place for wanderers. How fitting. I’ve never seen it that way before.
I know that my mind is changing. The way synapses fire in my brain causes grooves to be deeply formed cementing habits and conditioned thoughts. I can change those habits and those thoughts. With every inhalation my awareness can expand to see why I think the way I do. I can look at a road sign and see it in a new way. I can allow the stillness of a moment in satsang to bring an intuitive thought that would have otherwise been drowned out by the cacophonous symphony of other random thoughts. Gone is the extended worry that I accidentally took someone’s pillow when I changed seats to get a better view of the DVD player he was moving. Replaced with those useless imaginings are understandings that a separate dark, habitual thought pattern is getting lifted into light. While focusing on something false and detrimental I have a realization. Accompanying this is a flash of a vision: a clod of earth being ploughed under allowing light to enter where it couldn’t before. I know this is the way the Divine operates for me.
Sometimes when old thoughts are tugging at me I’ll have a flash of a visual. Once it was a long pole with two water buckets on each end being placed on my shoulders: a burden. Those old thoughts are burdens that are no longer mine to carry. I’m reprogramming myself anew by putting intention into the massive amount of energy that is expended in the grey matter between my ears. Yoga is about uniting. I can’t unite with anything unless I know exactly what I am that’s doing the uniting. With every inhalation, awareness expands.
With every exhalation, relaxation deepens. I’d been feeling extremely stressed out in my Karma yoga lately. It was stemming from one of my usual patterns: giving authority to something or someone else rather than exercising my internal authority. Sometimes I feel like I’m being squished between my superior, a paid employee who doesn’t live at the ashram and the karma yogis here on the Young Adult Program who I facilitate the weekly class for and direct in their karma yoga tasks in the bookstore. I’m in this awkward space amidst these groups, caught in the middle. The bookstore manager was away on a long weekend and instead of that lessening the stress it made it worse. I was able to project even more onto her when her presence was invisible, decipherable only in the to-do list she had prepared for me in preparation for her extended absence. The list was made to help me, not to keep tabs on what I complete. Not to make me feel like there’s this presence watching every move I make, ensuring the timely finishing of each task. What is it I have with authority figures? I just can’t seem to even the playing field sometimes. The first step is knowing it’s all within me. Only I am creating these games. I try to relax, writing myself soothing poetry and playing music to calm my mind.
One great thing about living at an ashram is that I get to practice savasana every day. Well, I could no matter where I live but living here I get a real live guided relaxation through all the parts of my body as I lay in corpse pose every single time I go to hatha. It’s pretty fantastic. Recently I felt this great magnetism during end relaxation. Like every cell of my physical body was completely relaxed and vibrating at exactly the level it is supposed to. There was no stress or worry. How can I bring that to my karma yoga day? In our weekly class the night before I was sharing my recent stresses and Swami Sivananda encouraged me to see how I can bring the last line of the Divine Mother prayer into my awareness during these stressful times: “May everything I do be taken as Thy worship”. When I know who I’m really completing a task for I can relax and offer my best. It’s not for the bookstore manager, it’s not for the bookstore manager that is even *higher* than her who does the purchasing and lives in Cranbrook most of the time, it’s for me. It’s for me to offer my very best to the Divine. There’s nothing stressful about that. I can bring relaxation into everything with the right mindset.
I was putting price tags on new pendants that arrived the other day (job number 2 on my to-do list in case you were wondering). Feeling the sterling silver oms between my fingers I felt their heavy weight of value. Yeah, silver prices have skyrocketed but this was something deeper than that. The smooth metal felt like coins as I looped the removable price tag around their tops. I remembered the feeling I’d had during the end relaxation in hatha yoga that morning. That’s what I can do, I can bring awareness to every moment, making sure everything I do be taken as Thy worship.