Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Light Unto Yourself

"O my friends,
What can you tell me of Love,
Whose pathways are filled with strangeness?
When you offer the Great One your love,
At the first step your body is crushed.
Next be ready to offer your head as his seat.
Be ready to orbit his lamp like a moth giving in to the light,
To live in the deer as she runs toward the hunter's call,
In the partridge that swallows hot coals for love of the moon,
In the fish that, kept from the sea, happily dies.
Like a bee trapped for life in the closing of the sweet flower,
Mira has offered herself to her Lord.
She says, the single Lotus will swallow you whole." -Mirabai

Mirabai was an Indian princess turned deeply reverent and pious Krishna devotee who flouted severely strict tradition and familial expectation to worship her Lord. Her independence and the strength of her vision and devotion have been a great inspiration to me over the last five years as I melt and merge ever more with the deep and endless ocean that is my own experience of the Divine. 

Nearly three years ago, I began chanting a nightly prayer from the Sikh tradition called So Purkh offered up for the healing and elevation of the men in my life. Aside from being a blessing for them, it is said to attract a woman's true beloved. Hundreds of days and thousands of repetitions later, I'm not sure that I'm any closer to finding my sweetheart, the man whose eyes I've already seen in the vision I had long ago of the daughter we will someday create. Sometimes I think I catch a glimpse of him, but as far as I can tell, he has yet to be revealed to me. Every night I chant with reverence, thanking the Divine for preparing my sweetheart and I for one another and for bringing us together in the right place at the right time.

Lately, I've begun to harbor a growing impatience for the pace of this part of my story. Where IS he?? I have been technically single for what feels like ages and while I recognize all the ways in which this has been highly valuable, I feel ready for a different experience. There are some things that we can only learn when looking in the mirror of the other, and I am hot to get at all this new insight. Come on, man! I want it all, all the exquisite, ecstatic, humbling, challenging, empowering, enlightening, maddening glory of intimate relationship. I have cultivated rich inner depth! I have so much to share and still so much to learn! Where is my partner? Where is the missing piece of my prophetic vision?

On the flip side, I know from experiences painful and frustrating how important it is to take only what is being freely offered (or in yogic yama speak, asteya). Timing is precious delicate. If it were time it would be time, but it is not yet. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Or...never?

What if there is no partner? The eerily accurate yogurt shop psychic, Miss Tina, predicted a lasting lifelong love, but what if she was wrong? Or the plan shifted? It's not like we really understand how this whole life thing works anyway, death being the only certainty. What if it is Just Me?

Fantastic! I'm an extremely easy, lovely person to be with most of the time. It might get lonely sometimes, but that's okay. It's okay to be alone.

Thing is, though, I'm not alone; never have been, am not, never will be. Like Mirabai, I have recognized that my life belongs to the Divine and I seek to melt like wax being softened by the burning truth of my eternal connection to and place in Divinity. My primary relationship is with God and everything else flows from the understanding that it is He whom I serve in this life, not myself or anyone else. I read this incredible, cheeky-but-accurate blog post titled, "Guide to Dating a Yoga Goddess" years ago, this part of which is especially resonate these days:

"A Yoga Goddess will worship God first, then you, if you’re lucky. A Yoga Goddess is comfortable being alone. The spiritual journey is a lonely path since the road less traveled is never crowded. She is used to solitude, comfortable with its pleasures and pains and has used time alone to contemplate and commune with God. A Yoga Goddess has taken the time to know and understand herself and her relationship to the divine and it will be nearly impossible to share a meaningful life with her if you are not inclined to do the same...A Yoga Goddess has a connection to the divine that preceded you and God is the center of her universe, not you." -Namaste, Bitches

You don't have to worship or even believe in God to passionately devote your life, to surrender yourself completely to your calling. It is this devotion and surrender to whatever is true and important to you that I believe is essential in ultimately drawing in your perfect beloved. I heard a story recently about Saraswati and Lakshmi, how if you pursue Lakshmi (wealth) before Saraswati (knowledge), you will attain neither. I think there is a similar principle for love.

Seek first a sophisticated knowledge of yourself...who you are, what you offer, your darkness and light, how you are strong, where you are weak, why you do what you do, what is important to you and what is not. Stretch. Explore. Clarify. Heal. Cultivate a rich inner depth. Devote your life to whatever makes you come alive. Get lit from within. Be your own parent and best friend. Learn to love yourself madly. Get good at being alone.

From this place of rich and royal inner abundance, then seek the wealth of an intimate connection with another. In all this, never lose track of your primary relationship with your own deepest truth, the Divine, your passion and devotion. We are here to help elevate each others' consciousness, but we are not deities to one another. Our human connections cannot sustain the weight of worship. The Buddha's last words were, "Be a light unto yourself." You already contain everything. The other is simply a mirror to help you see yourself more clearly, to remember how divine you are when you forget.

If your beloved is not helping to elevate your consciousness and show you your truth, they are not your beloved. We are better off "alone" than with someone who will not support our upliftment. Seek those who are a light unto themselves, who possess rich inner depth which they freely offer. You deserve nothing less, you beautiful, rich and royal lightbeam.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Taking Back The Body

"Stop worrying about whether you're fat. You're not fat. Or rather, you're sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea." -Dear Sugar

The train whined to a halt in Highland Park and I stepped out into the gentle magic hour sunset air. Prince and the Revolution was my walk-to-Chad's-house soundtrack of choice and as I danced down the street, I decided that it would be a nice change to cease giving a fuck. There are things that are absolutely worthy of a fuck given (see: beloveds, ice cream, yoga) but shiny skin? Breast size? Hip width? Those ain't it, babies.

The sense of self-worth of far too many people is being held hostage by the impossibly nebulous, shifting Standard of Beauty. This standard is decided by the whim of and is in the best interests of a few who stand to profit off of our dissatisfaction with our bodytemples. The beauty/image industry creates problems out of natural occurrences in order to sell us whatever it is they're peddling. What are we buying when we buy their product? Is it just the product or are we also buying into the bigger idea that something outside ourselves is required for us to be okay?

It is not only our sense of self-worth that can get tied up in externals, though. Our very ownership over our bodies is under regular threat from those who seem to think they have some claim to them. This is especially true for women. At best, men think that we owe them conversation and attention. At worst, they think our bodies are at their disposal for whatever purpose they deem appropriate. Women aren't allowed No without being chastised for being a bitch or a tease.

Two years ago I was sexually assaulted and I still reel a bit from the terrible double bind of not being able to say No and the shame of not saying No, despite my lack of agency in the moment. The internal script is typical: "Why didn't you yell it? Why didn't you fight?" I try to be gentle, reminding myself that I did what was necessary to remain safe. And sometimes, increasingly so lately, I get angry. Because were it not for the culture of violence we live in that has so grossly commodified women's bodies, I wouldn't have to.

We should not have to protect or defend ourselves from any variety of unwanted pressure. My body is mine. It belongs to me alone. What I choose to do with it is up to me. I am beautiful just as I am, I am okay sans external "improvements," and no matter what the request, I am entitled to No. I am not obligated to talk to anyone because they want me to, or shave my legs, or lose five pounds. I want a joyous experience of my bodytemple, so I am taking back my body.

Your body belongs to you. It is not here to please the world and you have nothing to prove. Take it back, remembering that no matter what, you always have a choice. No belongs to you.

Can we agree to reject anything that tells us that we are not okay just as we are? Can we raise ourselves and one another up into a joyful, unconditionally loving experience of ourselves and our bodies? Let's evolve into creatures that are as reverent of our bodytemples as we ought to be. We are living miracles. Let's treat ourselves and each other as such.