Closeness in Times of Separation
On Friday, 3/13/2020, feeling confused with all of the decisions I had to make about canceling events, retreats, fundraisers, and prison Seva with Kripa, and then feeling conflicted with needing a break from the news while also feeling a social responsibility to stay updated, I did what I often do when I feel lost.
I sat down at my puja table and sang. A while ago I set up my recording equipment in my puja room so I could just hit record before my singing practice. I never do anything with any of the recordings because the person who sits down and sings to God is not the same me as the self-critical and doubting perfectionist who listens afterwards.
But right now I find my longing for perfection overridden by my need for connection. By sharing my raw heart, I can collapse the distance between myself and my community. In this time of physical distancing, we have an opportunity to learn that Love transcends space and time- by avoiding each other’s physical bodies, by discerning the most accurate, evidence-based information from community experts, by sharing rather than hoarding, by finding ways to support our most vulnerable community members (elderly, immune-compromised, those laid off or independent contractors, those in prisons making hand sanitizer for the rest of us while having no meaningful public health plan themselves, those experiencing homelessness…) All of this is an act of Love that can be done from any distance.
So, in this spirit I offer a simple home recording from my home puja. It’s a new chant, “SītāRām,” inspired by the poem I wrote by the same name just a few days ago.
Some moments I’m just singing- lost in thoughts or trying to sound pretty- it’s as if I don’t even remember that the most beautiful gem is coming out of my lips! Other times I’m desperately trying to bring my mind to one point on the Name.
And then there is the softening into It- it’s like falling into the Name, as if the Sound Itself is the portal, a sonic river whose current I surrender to as it erodes my separate sense of self.
Other times I am just crying out. I am so steeped in my shit, my neurosis, and self-hatred that I don’t even know where to look or what to do. So I just cry out, and within that intensity the distance is collapsed in an instant.
Other times God is here, I mean, where else could They be? My thoughts, my desires, my emotions, my pain, my confusion, my effort, my shit- it’s all God, and it’s beautiful. The most beautiful confusion, the most beautiful thoughts, the most beautiful suffering. And I’m just swimming in it. Swimming in God.
I’m calling out to the Beloved, but who’s even calling anyway? The sense of ‘me’ dissolves in the fiercest and most extravagant melt. We often think of ecstasy as the pinnacle of pleasure, but its not that; it’s the intensity of experience itself, raw in it’s glory when we stop trying to manage or filter or understand it with the mind; it’s the deepest allowance. It’s almost too much, but then again what else is there to do but let go?
This letting go includes even my desire to sound good. There are a lot of different forms of devotional expression, and perfection is one of them. But I am slowly learning that it is just not mine. It has its place, but but often it is a hindrance to my devotion. It has to go too. Sounding good has to go. I just want to keep letting go of all of it with the promise that Parama Prem- that Expansive Love Beyond All Measure- awaits us at the core of our fragile human hearts. So, I will keep letting go into That.
Until I forget again… I don’t know why. Maybe I couldn’t handle it, I needed a break, or… it’s all just God’s dance anyway, and the Beloved has led me back to yearning, or forgetting… but now the yearning and forgetting are a little sweeter. They are prasad, a gift from God to be savored as I dance with my Beloved under the Grace-filled moonlight of devotional song.