Food for thought

A.G. sent  me a comment about my last blog-  ( I)   “could fix the connections I seem to be having with some of the powerful months, by using a powerful mantra for one of the months and mastering it in samadhi…”

I found the comment very interesting as I had never considered that I was having “trouble” with any months, but merely was responding compassionately to the nature and seasons of my own body and soul.   I found it food for thought.

Govindan and I drove to South Florida over the past week.   We visited the amazing Morikama Japanese Garden in Delray Beach.    Walking the gardens was a meditation and silent sitting was positively effortless.     We spent the day there and I was ready to return the following day.     It is magical, a place to be absorbed in the symphony of the bamboo forest and then  meditate in the raked stone gardens.    The powerful energy of nature, when it is cultured and beloved is non surpassed.   The sky was overcast, a light breeze continued to cool and caress us  throughout the day; the only rain fell as we were leaving and it was light, so as not to get you or the books you purchased on creating your own serene gardens wet.

We left the garden for Miami Beach, which was probably not the best decision we ever made.  We wanted to go to the ocean and had gone specifically to Maimi to meet with a swami with whom we have been corresponding for years.    He was visiting Miami as part of a US Tour,  giving Kirtan and Yoga programs to raise funds for his ashram’s school on the island of Omkareshwar, India.    He is an American, but he took sanyas by initiation from his Satguru, Anandamayi Ma in 1972, when he was 20 years old.   His devotion to Ma, his strict yogic discipline and his dedication to the ashram school is inspiring to all westerners he meets.

Swami Mangalananda’s beautiful, clear voice and soulful bhajans dutifully hit its target.     It seems impossible not to be touched deeply by the sound vibrations and original rhythms he sings, even if, one were to focused solely on his/her asana practice at the same time he was performing.

The experience with Swami was  interesting.    When we arrived to meet him, Swami expressed some trepidation and seemed a bit unclear how the evening would go.   He said to us, “I have had a wonderful day today, it feels like Swami is on holiday, but Jai Ma!; Ma only knows why I am doing this,  but it seems that I will be giving kirtan in a Yoga Studio, during a Yoga class!”

I can say that from the outset, it all seemed quite disrespectful.  And although I was very pleased that Swamiji had been so warmly received and extremely well, taken care of, I felt that Govindan and I should drive Swami back with us to Orlando, right then and there.   But here we were, in a lovely Yoga Center in South Beach.    Swami was seated in the front of the room with his tabla players as what felt like the background music for the strong physical set of asana going on in the rest of the crowded room.

The room heated up almost immediately to such a degree that swami had taken off his kurta top after his first prayer to Ma and sat playing the rest of the class in his undershirt.    One drummer had his shirt off before the set had even began.    The instructors lead the class through an intense series of postures, and she and another instructor also corrected students individually, all while Swami was singing his heart out.

While the images of this class invoked judgment within me,  the music of the spheres also began to work on me.    I began to work out the antidote to my view of what is wrong with this picture.   One has to ask why one would mix the two limbs (asana and bhakti) of Yoga in such a way?    But, I practice and teach just that… that asana practice should be done as a ritual of worship.    And, although the energy in the class that day seemed more to ignore  what was going on in the front of the room,  I suppose one has to start somewhere to both prepare the soil and plant the seed of understanding that Bhakti is the real juice of Yoga.     I do not know if this preparatory method works… but surely seeds were planted.     And while only two of the perhaps, twenty people in the class felt the pull to donate towards Swami’s school that day,  there were two more such kirtans planned.   Only Ma knows what will develop.

As the class began the teacher lead them in an omkara and pranam.  They chanted Aum three times and took their head to the floor.

They must be aware of the importance of worshiping the Self and  in respecting  all that would be passed on within the individual and collective events of a class.

A Yoga student must have great regard or at least feel respect for the teacher, irregardless of what the teacher is teaching, if anything magical like a blessing is to occur.   I wanted to stop the class and pontificate, “You must listen with your heart.  You must understand just who Anandamayi Ma is!”   I wanted to stand and declare, “This is Yoga… even in this confusion of body and spirit.   Real Yoga is the work that comes from the force of Bhakti.  Here in front of you is the power of a rare lineage, generations of discipline practice and penance.  Anandamayi Ma was no normal humanbeing, she is a Divine incarnation and Swami was initiated by Her and he is here to share that initiation with you, through the divine sounds of his voice and his devotion.  Do not ignore what is happening; listen and respect the blessing being offered to you.    There will come a time, when They invite you, to take your place with Them. Perhaps today is the day.”

My voice was silent but the message filled my own heart and sent tears streaming down my face.   Kirtan from a living, breathing lineage can touch the seed of aspiration within you, giving it sustenance and making it grow in light.     And that is when real Yoga can begin.
For more information about Swami Mangalananda, Omkareshwar Ashram see www.shantipurifriends.org

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