Growing Discomfort and the First Public Satsang
In an attempt to make my sleeping arrangements more comfortable, I had borrowed the thin mattress (and I use the word advisedly) from the second twin bed and piled it atop the mattress on the bed where I was sleeping. The thin inflatable pad I had brought went on top of those, and finally, I added the yoga mat to my mound o’ mattresses. That tipped the scales, and I finally had enough cushioning to feel comfortable.. I had to take care, though, not to move too far in one direction or another or I would fall off my stack.
I could feel that the subtle energies of the body were really being activated by the mountain and by spending so much time alone meditating.. Doing sun salutations as the day was breaking behind the holy mountain was powerful stuff. However, I began to notice that feelings of jealousy and unworthiness were arising.. It seemed that everybody else had their particular buddies and friendship circles, and I wasn’t a part of any of them. Even the people I knew, it seemed, had no interest in me, including Deva. Being no novice, I simply observed the feelings without acting on them. I knew that part of what I was feeling was attributable to being far from home and in a foreign environment. I also knew that as it pertained to Deva, I was projecting my issues around authority figures onto him. The strong feelings of love and devotion that I felt for him were intermingled with a sense of unworthiness and powerlessness that related to my father and dated back to early childhood.
I had been aware before I embarked on this journey, that it would open me up to the arising of old outworn patterns, which is part and parcel of what an undertaking like this is all about. Meditating in such an atmosphere and being in this kind of spiritual setting, thins the walls that hold these constructs in place and allows them to emerge and be seen for what they are – memories that activate a concomitant set of physical, mental and emotional responses. You can’t be free until you’re no longer a slave to the past. Knowing all this didn’t make it fun, but at least I had an idea of what was going on and that therein was my work.
In the tradition from which Devaji’s teachings spring, when difficult material is playing, the approach is to stop and simply be with whatever is arising -- embracing and holding everything with as much acceptance and tenderness as possible. So that’s what I did. The feelings did subside intermittently, but they were quite persistent, not surprising since they had been running the show my whole life.. I took some consolation in the fact that all this time alone left plenty of room for journaling and writing poetry.
On the third night I slept fitfully, woke up at 3 a.m. and was unable to get back to sleep. Finally, I got up, showered and went for chai at 6, then took my yoga mat to the rooftop. This morning, however, when I finished yoga, I felt shaky and queasy. I went to breakfast but could barely eat, so I went back to my room and rested all morning, sleeping a little. In the afternoon, I reached out to my neighbor Amrita, who not only had been to India many times before and is experienced at this type of work, but she is a doctor, and I knew her to be extremely compassionate.. I spilled my story to her and after some wise counsel and a homeopathic remedy, she invited me to go to town with her and another woman. We shopped at the Women’s Cooperative, where I had been before to have clothes made, then went to Ramana Towers, where Devaji would be holding satsang later in the day.
The satsang, which is Sanskrit for “in the company of truth,” was attended by a number of people from our group, a contingency of Western seekers from around the world, and a few Indians, 40 to 50 people in all. It followed Devaji’s usual format. After we meditate together for a while, he offered a 15- to 20-minute monologue on the non-dual teachings, and then invited members of the audience with questions or concerns to come up to a seat facing him and dialogue.. It was, as usual, powerful, particularly the interactions.. Watching the kind and skillful way Deva helps people disengage from the story of their “problem” and contact the truth of who they are -- the love and beauty that lives in the stillness of the heart -- always moves me..
After satsang, my own painful story was running again as it seemed that nobody wanted to connect with me for a trip to Ramana Market and a tuk-tuk back to the ashram. I started off on my own, but soon ran into a woman from our group who was very friendly and interested in doing the same thing I was.. So -- as I would come to observe over and over on this trip -- it all worked out.
My other consolation was that spending so much time alone was awakening me to so much beauty – the scintillating aliveness of everything was almost vibrating, throwing off a kind of internal light. I could hardly walk through the grounds without gasping in astonishment over something.. The dried leaves on the ground, the flowers, even the most common objects took on an intensity that was staggering.. I was becoming more sensitized to everything -- sounds, tastes, nuances of every sort. This is what happens when we slow down, reduce the external stimulation, quiet our minds and simply be with ourselves.. I wrote the following poem in response to the impact on me of the mango leaves that.I walked through on my way to and from the dining area.
Flaming leaves burn
The ground where I walk,
Fueling the hunger in my heart,
And igniting the passion
That is always there
For the slightest rustle
To be kindled
Into a bonfire of love..
Coming next: Meditating in Ramana’s Caves