I think the holiday season is still sinking into me, resting slowly into my cells and my memories. It’s as if I haven’t quite fathomed just how wonderful it was. Perhaps I could say that about my entire year here. The holidays were amazing. It was truly a time of Light and celebration there was also pain and discovery but mainly Light and celebration.
On the night of the solstice I had to keep reminding myself that everything was really and truly happening. We all made our way down the candle-lined steps to a fire on the beach where a pipe-holding community member led us through a Native American peace pipe ceremony. It was magical. “Is this really happening?” a voice inside my head would ask, “Yes,” came the response, “stay in this moment! Remember this feeling!” It was really beautiful. And who knew roasted chestnuts were so delicious!
I have a visual of Christmas Eve etched permanently in my mind. It’s of Swami Jyotihananda’s face suffused with gentle candle light. Her head is framed by her toque and scarf, her winter jacket tightly wrapped around her. Behind her is a line of people walking up the road from Mandala House to the temple, each with their own glowing light. I get to the temple and slip my candle in the candle-holders we’d previously placed for members of the band, pick up my guitar and we belt out some delicious Christmas tunes and bhajans. After Satsang and cookies and tea in the dining room I head to the beach with a friend and we find our way to a candle-lit prayer room late into the night, sharing a lovely visit.
Christmas day sledding was certainly a highlight buoyed perhaps by the three cups of coffee I’d had at brunch, thereby doubling my coffee intake of the entire year and dashing any hopes of catching up on sleep lost the previous night. We slid back to the dining room for some snacks and games. Spending time with my fellow karma yogis in that kind of family atmosphere was really a treat. I guess spending the holidays together kind of has familial connotations and even since the New Year I feel a sort of knitting together of everyone’s various personality aspects that float around and connect.
Between Christmas and New Year’s I felt a bit of an in-between slump. There weren’t any particular celebrations happening yet we were on the celebration schedule. With so few karma yogis around lately we pared back to the essentials and basically had half-days of work or less the entire 12-day festival. It was pretty decadent and yet by the 26th I found myself craving a regular schedule again. I wasn’t jonesing too bad as I had to spend a lot of time in the office. It’s a unique place that office. Like the kitchen it has a mix of paid staff and karma yogis engaged in the very same tasks yet as a spiritual practice. How to reconcile that one is still sometimes a mystery to me when chatty staff want to regale me with tales of their weekend adventures. With this year’s influx of staff connected to the teachings there is another peculiar dynamic when they want to take holidays. Are they karma yogis or employees? Who gets to go to the workshop and who closes the bookstore? Being slotted for a couple of full days of work while my colleagues enjoyed open reflection space had me using up way too much energy curbing feelings of resent. Yet hadn’t I been the one wanting more of a set schedule? I knew my jealousy of their free-time was an illusion and managed to last all the way through my days, daily band practice and all, with a convivial attitude. One day I even forgot to take my afternoon break!
I continue to be amazed at the person I hang out with all day: my special self. Sometimes I transport myself years or decades into the future where I will recall with sweet and delicate fondness the time I spent living at the ashram, wiping away the layers of fog around me and polishing the diamond of my Self. New Year’s Eve had a special talking dinner and I sat at a table with two friends I did the YDC with and Swami Sivananda. It was an absolute treat to see some familiar faces that I spent three months with on course last year. Chatting with Swami Sivananda over a dessert of stuffed pear with chocolate and chai sauce was really sweet. I love his innocent sense of humour. We got to talking about the past and he mentioned the courage he saw in me during the course I took in June, 2010. I mulled over it and have no choice but to agree.
Courage is actually quite a good word for me to bring into the New Year. I’ve never felt so…energized about a January before. I really feel a sense of new beginnings. Perhaps it’s the ideals workshop I attended on New Year’s Eve or that my personal reflections are perfectly culminating with me taking a more focused and active role in my life. What better time to start than a New Year!
I’m developing a “Do It Now” attitude. This contrasts sharply with my life-long “Do It Later” attitude. Already I’m seeing vast improvements in my life and beginning to wonder how I got anything done. Did I even get things done? Doing them now is so much more satisfying. I courageously step forward into the uncharted territory of taking Action rather than Reacting. Taking action comes from my own accord rather than a response to a perception of need. I feel like I’m one step ahead instead of behind. It feels good.
Internal vs External
I had a conversation the other day in which I was able to concretize some concepts that have been floating around in my head for a while. It has to do with pressure. One thing I know about myself is that I don’t do well under pressure, but what does that mean exactly? Pressure from where? The only place pressure can come from is within me. I can fool myself into thinking it comes from somewhere else but really it comes from me. Say, for example, I have a job that starts at a particular time. There will be real and existing pressure to get to work on time but that pressure will only affect me if I want to keep the job. Really the pressure comes from within. Only when I perceive the pressure coming from outside of me do I get stressed out. I can place the blame on a boss that will give me disapproving looks if I show up late and feel judged and stressed or I can internalize that I want to do a good job and therefore hold myself up to the standard of arriving on time.
This realization has really opened things up for me. It’s allowed me to question the root of why I feel pressure. If it comes from an expectation that I no longer see a need to fulfill then I can discard it. When it comes from an ideal that I truly want to hold myself to then I can maintain the ideal it represents in my life. That’s the kind of pressure that makes diamonds.
365 Days ‘Round the Sun
Somehow the trip around the sun has a strong meaning to me. Sometimes I surprise myself my remembering some obscure event and then realizing it happened exactly one year to the day previous to the memory popping up. That’s why it was with great ado that I celebrated my one year anniversary of living here. Well, great ado might be an overstatement but I did take myself out for a candle-lit dinner with Tara, a deity in the dining room, dressing up extra special for the occasion. I’m amazed at how celebratory the evening felt. It is truly a testament to the power of the mind to create feelings and emotions that I really felt something special in the air that night. It was a feeling I know yet celebrating just for me, just with me, was a completely new experience. There I have it; I’ve been here over a year. And what a wonderful year it’s been.