Category: Personal Updates

GURUDEV

 

 

To Sri Swami Satchidananda

By Krishnadasi

 

 

 

You say humans have never seen

their own face

only a reflection,

and in those countless mirrors

lakes, pools and rivers

are pictures that don’t exist.

 

We smile and dance

to world illusions

unless

glass or water clean and still

and pure mind listening,

 

awake and quiet;

then, you promise

we may catch a glimpse

quick as the heart of a butterfly

reality

moving across our screen.

 

© YOGA JOURNAL, 1976

 

 

This poem was published when I was known by the Sanskrit name, Krishnadasi, which means servant of Krishna. I was living at the Santa Barbara Satchidananda Ashram at the time. Later, Gurudev suggested a change in my name to Krishnaprema, meaning the divine love of Krishna, which someone told me was a promotion. I did not, at first, accept this change with enthusiasm, because I was attached to the intense experience which brought about Krishnadasi.

 

Gurudev noticed my reluctance and teased me about it. Eventually, he wrote to me and explained how he considered Krishnaprema to represent the best way for me to move forward on my spiritual journey. Fortunately, I had already had a change of heart. I was able to embrace his words and have found them to be an inspiration in my life to this day.

 

Gudrun

A Poem Personal Updates

After a recent and powerful storm, an exotic bird arrived at our back door slider. It was beautiful with a bluish-grey neck, white and tan body the size of a juvenile wild turkey and a delicate feather crown on its head. It exhibited signs of trauma with flickering-eye expressions and nervous pacing.

For days, the bird hung around. It jumped up our recycle bins to look in our kitchen window. We fed it, concerned it would starve to death, because it was not engaged in food searching behavior. It also didn’t show much interest in our offerings.The bird did not exhibit any physical injuries. At some point, we had to give it tough love, put chicken screen around to protect our entrance from poop, and to keep the bird from damaging the glass door.

bluefeatherstripReturning from a hike I saw the bird obsessively walking back and forth again; I noticed it seemed to recognize its own image in the glass. Ah, I thought, it sees a fellow bird not understanding the concept of reflection. Later that day, on the meditation path, I saw evidence of a coyote kill. The remnants had the same coloration as our distraught visitor.

Sorrow hit my heart. The bird was in mourning for its companion, I decided. We wondered how to help it survive, recognizing the bird’s current behavior would be life threatening if it did not leave the place where another of its kind had been killed. We hung up a sheet in front of the sliding glass door. The reflection was gone and so was the visitor pacing at our door.

T., at some point, saw the bird was more relaxed, and we hoped, perhaps, it was ready to move on. The next morning, the bird was nowhere to be seen.

We wished him/her well. It was not in our hands, ultimately, what was to come. At least, we were no longer responsible for the false perception created by our door; but I asked myself, how does one handle suffering of the other?

The same way, I think, we handle our own suffering–recognize, acknowledge, feel it, and then, look for ways to embrace the best possible solution. Furthermore, the yogi seeks to understand how what we perceive is no more real than our reflection in a mirror. Also, perceptions, my teacher would often tell me, are not accurate if the mirror of the mind is distorted.

Days later, I found, on an off-the-trail site, the same kind of remains I had seen on the meditation path. Heartbroken, I remembered a quote from Jack Kornfield: “Our hearts are meant to be broken,” and the memory of these words helped me understand. In his recent Super Soul Sunday conversation with Oprah, Jack spoke about how compassion sometimes comes through the tears we carry, and we need to honor that.

Personal Updates

A weatherman predicts “the storm of the decade.” From drought to this—change. I shovel sand on a vulnerable pathway. I carry deadwood from the forest for firewood and picture the warm hearth that will happen.

Following deer trails through our land to the farmer’s fence, pushed low, where hoof tracks stop and continue on the other side, I see hills rise up from the field dark and wet. The creek has not yet flooded. Mother Nature, here in valley canyon I know, doesn’t regard human concerns for property, or for comfort. I place tools into the shed.

I have listened to what culture prescribes—education, work, marriage, motherhood–and as wind blows harder and harder on my face, the unknown rushes close. Has my life prepared me? By night, will hurricane gales from the north reach us?

OaksinRainstormMy blood also becomes wind. My hearing drowns in a sea of sound. Another large limb has broken along the path; this feels like potential for a kind of fear that brings one to fast action. I look at the 4-wheel-drive SUV parked in our driveway.

Clouds darken, moving across the sky like fast ships, and I return to the house strangely content. Sunlight bursts into the courtyard. I see through the screen door another quick shine of light before it disappears. Change. The law of impermanence.

The pull of life on earth is strong. From a sense of something sublime to a world of trivia, I pick up the cordless phone and order winter accessories with my 25% December discount. Soon this device will not be working.

After dinner, the monster storm arrives. I gather candles and lanterns. T. checks on the outbuildings. He comes running back. “I need your help; the blue tarp is about to blow like a balloon. Get your coat.” He sounds excited as wind whips through the open slider.

We hurry towards the area where the old tack barn used to be, next to two large pine trees. I hold a flashlight that requires constant pressure from my thumb. T. unravels rope. He ties things down. Just then the wind gathers more fury so I don’t hear a large limb cracking. T. yells, “Run!” We run. Loud crashing sounds collide behind us.

When we stop, the wind has died down. I see branches everywhere like a huge twisted dead creature. We return to the house thankful for candlelight. We listen to music on the iPad as T. plays with his smart phone. Modern life has not left us altogether.

The next day, we gather more firewood from windfall. T. uses up the batteries of 3 saws. I carry armfuls of wood to the fireplace. In between we feed a wild turkey, who suddenly appears looking lost and confused. Two more storms are expected to find us next week. In the meantime, our fireplace flames leap. Burning wood compacts down, crackling. I read, rest.

Personal Updates

Kundalini

 

I see a rainbow inside;
outside, nothing but light.

Kundalini,
that which awakens.

Being here, kundalini
does not relate
to there.

 

Whenever the word, kundalini, comes up in conversation, which it has lately, I remember an intense and confusing period where my perceptions were shifting dramatically.

TreePoseLSD.epsOne way to describe the awakening of kundalini is that it is an intensification of internal energies, which can be a smooth rush of energy coming up through the center of the spine, or if there are physiological/psychological blocks there may be unusual manifestations of heat, reactive neurological movements, or other processes that may be difficult to understand. However, eventually, the process of kundalini works to remove the blocks and to create a transformative experience.

After years of integration work, I see now, that such times of challenge can lead to incredible growth spurts. Sometimes, the growth feels as if it is moving too fast and that can be confusing.

I am looking at some of the books I have read on the kundalini experience. I learned that the information I gleaned from my research, though very helpful, was not always totally reassuring. Much more important was and still is to have people in one’s life who are understanding. Without my daughter’s acceptance and support and the help of friends and students, the journey would have been much more difficult.

One massage therapist said about the kundalini energy–“It’s like a Maserati engine driving on a dirt road.” This is an awkward experience until the physical and energetic bodies are integrated.

Each kundalini experience is unique and that can make it harder to work with, because there’s no one way that is correct. The kundalini process can be very puzzling to the outside observer, because it is such an inward process. However, with a positive and nurturing environment, the kundalini can blossom and transform one’s life in a beautiful way.

 

A Poem Personal Updates

July 16, 2014

 

palacio            On one of the PBS globe trotting shows, the hostess is in Barcelona. I am seeing locations known by Salvador Dali and Picasso. I am intrigued. I am also reminded of a comment recently made by one of my blog readers. My writing style reminds her more of Latin American and European writers than those of North America. It is not the first time I have heard this, and I was tempted to say, but I’ve never been published in Europe or Latin America. Instead, I listen and consider. Yes, I do love Pablo Neruda, Kafka, Elizabeth Borchers. I have also immersed myself in Kabir and Rumi.

 

I am equally fond of Thomas Merton, Emily Dickinson, Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath, Leonard Cohen and others. Though labels sometimes get in the way, what cannot be denied is that we love what we love.

 

On today’s walk, picking up deadwood in the forest area of the land under our care, I felt a sweet peace. I was wearing the toe shoes my daughter bought me after I broke my foot and felt well balanced in my stride. I could detect varying textures of earth underneath my feet, which somehow gave me a strong sense of belonging, after so many years of displacement and disruption in my life. This way of walking, that sensation of connection to earth, has a name given by the indigenous people of Borneo, I was told by someone born there—one is said to have “jungle feet.”

junglefeet

July, 17, 2014

 

We had a guest today, a long-time friend, who moved away, leaving a hole in our lives. There wasn’t much time, just enough for a cup of tea and conversation that felt unfinished at the end.

 

How difficult goodbyes can be, bringing to the foreground the direct experience of life’s constant movement. Yesterday, the day seemed solid and steadfast; today, I am faced with a stark sense of impermanence. And yet, there is something more.
The Presence of Absence

Between your departure and absence
my longing to have said what I didn’t
expands through space like a sound
that can’t be heard.
When you drove far away
consciousness extended until the currents
are as subtle
and powerful
as silence.

And between two points of separation
lies a vibrant electromagnetic field..

Can you see the light from my body
surge faster than your car?
Will you know me when I wait to greet you
at your destination?

 

© Gudrun Mouw

A Poem Personal Updates

LotusCloseupMomI finished the final hatha yoga class of the spring series this morning. We don’t usually go this long into the summer, but there had been unique difficulties with space.

After teaching the class, I sat down to continue my contemplation of a verse from the HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA by Swami Muktibodhananda, sent to me by a fellow yoga teacher as a birthday present. Yesterday, I was puzzled when reading the verse about not “bathing in the morning…,” and I also wish to examine further, in the same verse, the instruction about avoiding “tasks which produce pain in the body…” I have violated both “rules” in the last two days. Today, I study Swamiji’s commentary and am relieved to read how she clarifies the first part of the verse by adding that one should not bathe in the morning with cold water when the weather is wintery. I nod, of course.

The second caution, which I try to practice and often relate to my students, about avoiding tasks which produce pain, is sometimes hard for me to follow when I am doing yard work. Years ago, I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. The health practitioner who told me this also said: “You are the most healed patient with this disorder I have ever seen.” When I heard this, I thought I was home free; but every once in a while I see a recurring symptom, especially, when I push myself without realizing I have gone beyond my capacity to finish some outdoor project such as weeding, fire clearance, planting and watering.

Taking a warm bath before teaching the class this morning, however, is something I instinctively did to counteract the back pain resulting from too much yard work the other day, even before reading the clarification. Today’s study of the HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA verse also reminds me of my guru, a raja yoga master. I heard him say more than once, “Yes, there are various ideas a yoga practitioner may find useful to follow, but you might also have to make an adjustment for the sake of your health.” I am grateful that I have not felt the push to blindly adapt arbitrary belief systems.

What I have always loved about being a student and teacher of raja yoga is the encouragement I get to investigate and decide about the many practices and suggestions for myself. No yoga dogma is the happy result. At the same time, I’m aware there is more for me to learn—I need to work shorter hours; I need to work smarter.

Still, if my goal is to experience peace, love and freedom, how can dogma be helpful? My experience of Raja yoga is that it begins with an ethical foundation, moves me through mindful, physical, mental, emotional and energetic explorations with an eye towards an ultimate goal, whether it be samhadi, satori, freedom from suffering, clarity of mind, ease of body, or other visions about what my ideal human experience might be.

 

Gudrun

Personal Updates