Saturday, September 15, 2012

What You Are Searching For

This is something from the book I wrote called The Goldberg Variations. Ammachi or Amma is considered a living, Hindu saint. Her darshan or blessing is given in the form of a hug.

What You Are Searching For

I wear a t-shirt that I bought in New York. It was one of the last things I buy for myself before leaving. On the front is the symbol for yoga and on the back it says, “Om is the essence of all you’ve been searching for. Om is your own true nature.” It is a quote of Ammachi’s and I spend three days at the Manhattan Center when she is in town in early July. And after years, I even receive darshan. What I think I will feel when I receive it is not what I feel. I have been emotional and nervous all day, but when I receive her blessing I feel calm, peaceful and I have no need to cry or to manage my emotions. I am. So I look around for a place to sit and be alone.

I find a corner in the first balcony – I have sat there before and because I am a creature of habit, I return to almost the same spot. I drop my purse, my bag and I wrap the white cotton shawl I bought earlier in the day around me. I feel the drape of the cloth on me and I feel a deep pleasure – the weight, the feel on my arms and on the left side of my collarbone, the warmth that it gives me in the over-air- conditioned hall. It pleases me and I feel happy. I turn my head and my attention goes to two men two rows in front of me on my right. The older man has a grey ponytail that stops mid-way between his shoulder blades. He is wearing a soft cotton top and vest and flowing linen pants. The colors are all pale and faded and he sits lightly turned towards his companion with his right arm wrapped around the back of the empty chair between them. The younger man is turned directly to one side, he sits cross-legged on the chair giving his full attention to the older man. The younger man has short, black hair and a short black beard and is dressed in loose white linen.

I just want to be, but my attention is drawn to their conversation again and again. The older man talks of his experiences – of going to India, of meditating by the Ganges, and how, from time to time, he has a flash, a moment of divine connection. He knows it, he feels it and soon it is gone. He speaks slowly, thoughtfully and pauses now and then to look down to the stage where Amma is giving her blessing. When he stops, the younger man is quick to quote some teacher he has heard speak or make some witty remark and laugh almost too loudly. His energy is strong and sure and full of certainty. The older man continues to speak quietly and I begin to feel annoyed at the younger man. The older man has all the patience in the world for him, I do not. I see in everything he says a need to be noticed, to be considered wise, to be well on the path to knowledge and enlightenment. He is so sure and knowing – the older man is not so sure. He speaks of his traveling, of not knowing and finally says, “I know I am an aspirant,” and this word rings in me like a bell.

“This is what I do,” he says, “This is what I am.”

The younger man says something and laughs. But I am looking at the aspirant who moves his head slightly to one side and I see that he is very handsome. For a while I am lost in thought about these two men and who they are. It seems so clear to me that as time goes on we become so much less sure, much more afraid, everything is more fragile, closer to death, and therefore, more exquisite, more beautiful and more rare. There is a spark in youth that we lose in time, but if we are true to the questions within us, we are visited from time to time with a moment of enlightenment.

The younger man is still talking and then when he stops the older man says, “And now that these three years have passed, I want to give myself to love.”

“So, it has been three years?” asks the younger man.

“Yes, all this traveling has helped me know myself better.”

“Ah,” says the younger man, “so you are ready to fall in love.”

“You know,” says the older man, “to love someone else is a way to confront yourself, to understand who you are. When you look into the eyes of the Beloved, you are looking at yourself. That is why we fall in love, to know ourselves. But to open ourselves to someone and to let ourselves become vulnerable and allow them to love us, for however long and however imperfectly, that is when we confront the divine.”

The younger man looks at the older man and says nothing.

“But I am afraid,” says the older man, “Am I really ready? How will I know?”

“In time, in time,” says the younger man and they are quiet for a while. So I pick up my bag, my purse and I pull the shawl up over my left shoulder and I go.

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