Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Big Guy

Warning! Warning! The following may contain material that is offensive to some folks. I may use the word "God"....

Seriously, the following contains my personal interpretations. There may be errors.

I was running errands the other day and was searching the radio for some decent music and I came across George Harrison singing "My Sweet Lord". I stopped on that station and actually sat still for a moment in the car just taking it in. When the song was over I realized that the station I was listening to this ancient Sanskrit chant on was the local Catholic station. The funny thing about this is that the Church has frowned upon Yoga as "they" feel that folks are substituting Yoga for traditional religion.

I was born and raised to be a good Catholic girl. I went to Catholic high school and even wore the dreaded plaid skirt for four years. But I was a huge doubting Thomas. When my husband and I met in college I was pretty bummed when he dragged me to church every Sunday. He, also raised Catholic, is devout, not the doubting Thomas kind. His devotion was what endeared him to my parents and I knew that it was so very important to him that I went willingly every week. We had to walk at least ten blocks to get to church from our dorm and on the way back we would stop at Brook's Pharmacy in Cranston, RI to pick up our afternoon snacks; the awful Bugles chip things. But I diverge...

So I have pretty much floundered around my religion all my life and had no spirituality at all until Yoga. When I started to practice nearly 8 years ago, I started to have these "interactions", if you will, with Christ during asana. I really couldn't explain it at the time and I kept it to myself. I thought that if I shared these experiences with anyone they would have me committed. But it was these interactions with the Christ energy that opened the door to my spirituality. Once that door was opened, I found that I was starving and I had to feed that hunger or die.

I started reading, voraciously, anything that seemed to satisfy any part of that hunger. Since Yoga was the path that this incarnation chose to take to move towards the Light, it was the Yoga books and scriptures that I read. When I read Paramahansa Yogananda's "Autobiography of a Yogi" I finally understood why Christ was communing with me during practice. Paramahansa explains so eloquently in his teachings that Christ is considered by many to be an incarnation of Krishna. My own guru has often explained many of the connections between Christ and Krishna. Just the CHR/KR sound of the name is no coincidence. Both are considered the love light energy and many Hindus revere Christ for this. Once I started to open my body, there suddenly was room for His love and light to enter. He must have been trying to get in for a long time and He jumped when the opportunity to meet me presented itself!

It was about the time when I finished "Autobiography" that I started to notice that when we went to church, things that I have heard a priest say for my entire life, I started to hear differently. All of a sudden I was understanding my mass. I had a deeper appreciation for my own religion. I was able to embrace Christ as real. Real. Somehow, suddenly, through Yoga, I believed.

Christ is what Yogis consider a Siddhic Yogi; one who obtains great powers. Walking on water, bi-location, multiplying food, etc. These feats are frequently spoken of in Yogic scriptures. These feats are what made Christ both man and deity. These feats, as taught in The Bhagavad Gita, are accessible to all humans. This is one of the things about Hinduism that I adore. God is not unobtainable. God is in you, you just have to know where to look. Yoga is the science that teaches you how to find the divine light within you.

It doesn't matter what you call IT. God. Love. Shiva. David. Universe. Krishna. Parvati. Ganesha. Energy. Light. The Big Guy. It's all the same, people! This is where I have come in my quest to merge into the Light. You don't need to name it. You just have to have an open heart and an open mind. Once that door is open, the light floods in.

In the past 8 years I have been blessed to be in the presence of an enlightened being, my beloved guru, Shri Anandi Ma, many times. I have seen Her enter into samadhi. I have had Her hands on my head blessing me and removing the karma of all my past lives. I have drunk the sacred milk that has bathed Her feet. And I believe. I believe that God exists. Christ said, "Blessed are those who believe but have not seen." I guess it took me a little longer and He must have known that I needed a little bit more prodding and so he sent me to Her. Sometimes I wonder if all the events of my life led me to my teacher....

I still flounder when it comes to the teachings of man disguised as the word of God. I think, in this day and age, many of us do. I also think it is wise to have a healthy dose of skepticism and modern day Christ would probably agree. And the more I know, the less I understand. It's just that I have found a place of peace in my life where I finally have some blind faith in a power greater than myself. (And it doesn't hurt that I am blessed to have the guidance of a living saint.)

We are raising our children Catholic, of course. We are regulars at our church and I am proud of that. I am grateful that I have an understanding of Christ that allows me to introduce Him to my children in a different way than I met Him. I want them to see God in everyone and every culture. When they were little, about 4 and 5 years old, we drove past the Buddhist temple every day to work. One morning one of them asked me, as we passed that statue of Buddha, "Who is that?" And I replied, "That's a friend of Jesus." It was a spontaneous answer and I was amazed at my own insight as a mother. And that is how we have approached religion since. Just recognizing that Christ is in everyone and that everyone has the ability to become Christ-like is all I need to know to raise them in faith.

There is a recording of Swami Kripalu giving a lecture where he emphatically states this phrase: "God IS! God IS!". You can hear the ferocity of his belief. The force of the prana behind his voice crying this out was overwhelmingly powerful. It has never left me since first hearing it several years ago.

I am continually blessed with experiences in the presence of my Guru and teachings of other enlightened masters. I know that the blessing of my Guru is a gift directly from God and I am grateful. I also know that my path may not be your path and that is okay. I am amused by the Catholic church's view on Yoga but I still go to mass. So although I could probably get excommunicated for believing that my beloved teacher is a Goddess walking the earth, the fact remains that I believe. And isn't that the only thing that truly matters?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Angry Yogini

I'm pissed off.

It's true. I'm angry most of the time. Only those in my most inner most circle know this about me because they're usually the ones bearing the brunt of it. I've known this about myself since my teen years. I thought I'd grow out of it but I didn't. Most folks would never guess this about me for one reason; my smiling mask.

I'm angry about everything, from things I've done to things that God has done. I'm pissed that it took us seven years to conceive. I'm angry that my father died when I was 26 years old. I'm ripped that people promise me things and cannot follow through. It gets my blood boiling that people think that they can hurt you and twenty years later emerge back into your life and expect that you forgot how you weren't good enough in the first place. And it's not just the big stuff that pisses me off. I'm upset over how my husband took the garbage out last night. I'm mad that the dog just dug another hole in the yard. I'm furious that the wind ripped the canopy to my swing. I can go from grouchy to down right pissed off at the drop of a hat. And watch out when I get past that point of no return. It may take me hours to regroup myself.

Once when I was a pre-teen I was having an issue with a kid in school and was confiding in my beloved "Gram". She told me that I was going to be one of those people who can't think of a rebuttal when someone slights you until after that person has walked away. She was right. When you come from a home where your Polish father never got angry unless it mattered and your Sicilian mother was yelling all the time, you are pretty much guaranteed to not know when anger is appropriate.

Once, at my first job out of college, two of my employees were fighting. Brawling right on the floor. They were both large grown men and I was a little girl in heels and I had to break them up. I got so angry I had hives on my chest for 3 days.

After that hive incident I realized that I had a problem but I had no tools or guidance on how to fix it. So I basically wandered through my early adult life trying to figure out how to not be angry. Then I was diagnosed with psoriasis; a non-contagious skin condition that covers most of your body. Any holistic health practitioner will tell you that psoriasis is your body's way of protecting you from getting hurt. It is literally a shield that your body puts up to block out emotional pain. I couldn't figure out how to handle my completely human anger so I stuffed it in and my body responded, brilliantly.

I have floundered in this space of being angry, not understanding anger, and not knowing how to handle it for the better part of my adult life. After I began Yoga, I think I just figured that somehow the anger would dissolve in the practice, when actually the Yoga has shown a spotlight on it. I mentioned this to a healer I had been working with a few years ago and she told me that anger is a result of poor boundaries. This was like a kick in my gut. You mean I am causing my own anger?!? What the frick? This made me even angrier! That comment, even though it pissed me off, made me stop and reflect: Do I really have such weak boundaries that I allow people to do things that cause me such anger?

The answer is yes.

I'm a people pleaser. I just want to make you happy. I want you to like me. I don't want to make any decision that will hurt or upset you. I'll give you everything and leave nothing for myself. It's just how I am. It's a defect in my character. Now that I am a mother, often I am forced to make decisions that will upset someone. (Cue the big anger.) But I am working on it. I acknowledge this about myself and that truly is the hardest part of the battle. How do you maintain a loving, giving nature and yet be able to set strong enough boundaries with people you love and with people you work with so that everyone is happy??

I intellectually know you can't please everyone but my dosha (Ayurvedic constitution) wants to do something else. It has only been in the last couple of years where I've begun to take care of myself and worked on not feeling guilty about it. But there is still the boundary issue. I'm working on that too. I promised myself that when my husband gets home I will "calmly" ask him to not take the trash out like he did last night (piled on top of my Yoga gear in the back of my car). We'll see how it goes.... Part of the issue is my Sicilian temperament compiled with my kaphic dosha. Sicilians are not typically known for their level headed-ness....ahem. And kaphas tend to be people pleasers. Kaphas are made up of the earth and water elements. When you put earth and water together you get mud. When you step in mud, you go squish. There's the boundary issue. Are you following me here?

So the bottom line is this: I know I have this challenge in my life. I'm working on it. And that's the best most of us can do. We all have our challenges. I'm sure I'm not alone with the anger challenge. I'm going to work on not beating myself up after one of of my "past the point of no return" episodes. I'm going to reflect back after one of these episodes to see what caused the issue to start with. I'm going to work on taking care of me, too. I'm working on letting go of guilt when I do take care of myself. I'm going to work on setting boundaries with people that give me room. I'm going to work on letting go of guilt when I make a decision that is in my best interest and not yours. And I'm working on learning to feel good when I'm not angry.....

Damn! I've got a lot of work to do....but I'm still smiling!

Parrothead Yoga

I have seen Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band nearly 30 times.

And I'm sure if you are familiar with Jimmy (sometimes referred to hereafter as Bubba) and Yoga, this probably seems like a huge paradox. In a way it is. Bubba's music and the Parrothead lifestyle is about one thing and one thing only; Escapism. Yoga is about being present. Herein lies the paradox. But somehow, in my completely insane life, I have managed to blend the two passions of my life. Rather successfully, I might add.

I have been a "Parrothead" way longer than I have been a Yogini. It began on a dark and dreary time of my life when I was working at my first job out of college. I hated my job. I hated who I worked with. I hated where I lived. I had no friends. I had no social life. I was working 14 hours a day sometimes 6 days a week. It sucked. The place where I worked was right next to a mall and one day after a particularly long workday I went over to the mall to decompress. I was perusing the record store (ahhhh, remember those??) and found Bubba's cd box set; Boats, Beaches, Bars, and Ballads. I don't remember how much it was but I remember that I thought it was a lot of money; a luxury purchase at the time. I only knew two of Bubba's songs, Come Monday and Margaritaville, so I don't know why but I felt compelled to buy it.

I went home with that box set and quickly fell in love. The set came with a booklet; kind of a Parrothead handbook of sorts. The photos of concerts and these crazy people dressed in all kinds of get-ups transfixed me. So when my eldest sister asked if I wanted to go to Florida with her on my first vacation away from this dreaded job, which would include a side trip to Key West, I jumped at the chance! (at this point in time, the only "Margaritaville" restaurant was in Key West. A long, long time ago...)

So there we were, two gals traveling to Key West. I was completely exhausted, we had escaped a massive flood in transit, and my sister had never been to a bar! What a pair! I can only remember being in awe of a place so calm, so relaxed, and so happy. The whole place was such a contrast to how stressed out I was at the time. This little island was where I first exhaled. It was the first time my sister ever went to bar; Hog's Breath. After all, hog's breath is better than no breath at all, right? And it was our first taste of the real Margaritaville, which exists only in your mind.

The following September we had the chance to see Bubba and his big band live at Greatwoods in Mansfield, Mass. We got the tickets and headed north. Just the two of us gals, again. Driving in her mini-van, this time dodging obstacles in the road, not rain. We barely made it but we got there unscathed. When we got out of the car we thought we were on another planet. People were dressed in costumes and eating food out of the backs of their cars. Every car was decorated from bumper to bumper. But in the middle of this creative explosion of life we felt like we were home. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Since that first concert, I have seen Jimmy at Greatwoods many times. I've seen him at The Today Show summer concert series, The Meadows in Hartford, Fenway Park (yes, Michael, you read that right), Gillette Stadium, Continental Arena, Madison Square Garden, the stadium where the Phillie's play and Bristow, VA. When I was in Yoga school, I happened to have the day off when Jimmy was playing for the first time at Mohegan Sun. My husband sent a limo to pick me up at Kripalu to drive me all the way to Uncasville. When we drove up Jimmy was landing in his helicopter on the casino landing pad. The driver saw all of these people dressed in costumes and blurted out, "What the hell is this?!?" I jumped out of the car into the open arms of my husband to the hoots and hollers of fellow revellers yelling at me, "That's the way to arrive, babe!"

Each show is about the same. We know all the songs by heart. We always wish he'd play something more obscure. We plan for months about what food and drink we want for our tailgate. We laugh at the "Buffett Virgins", the folks who don't know all the words by heart and end up drinking waaaayyyy too much. Both of my children have been and have even made it onto the 'big screen'. I've made it up there a time or two myself, but not for the reason that most girls make it up there, ahem....
There's one point in every show where Bubba plays 'Fins' and the entire crowd of 55,000+ do a Parrothead dance with their arms over their heads (like a fin) and it becomes a feeding frenzy. A few years ago, Jimmy started calling this point in the show "Parrothead Yoga". (Of course, this always gets me screaming wildly. Come to find out Jimmy's niece is a Yoga teacher, go figure.) But this is the point in every concert where the experience actually turns into Yoga for me. When the crowd is doing Fins, everywhere you look everyone looks the same. The first time I experienced this at that first show at Greatwoods in '92 was the first time I felt oneness with other humans on that capacity. You can actually see that we are all the same, no matter what costume we are wearing.

So if you are looking to escape for just one night or if you are looking to create a life of peace and being present, know that that place of peace known as Margaritaville lies within you. You have the ability to access it whenever you want by just breathing into the Oneness. Sometimes, though, it helps to put on an ugly Hawaiian shirt with your arms over your head and do some Yoga.

Greatwoods June 2009

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