Come Empty Into the Cave of the Heart
For me, it was a relief to settle into silence. I am an introvert by nature, and I welcomed a lengthy period of time where I wouldn''t have to converse or interact with other people. The daily routine was to gather at 9 a.m. for satsang (following the same format as at the public events), break for lunch and then regroup again at about 2 in the afternoon for another session that ended just before dinner.
I found myself going in and out of extreme homesickness during the first few days, something that rarely affects me when I’m traveling. This whole India experience was much more challenging than I had expected. It’s so confounding -- wanting to get away from the familiar then wanting the familiar back when it gets dicey. The thing about this kind of pilgrimage is that as you quiet the mind, suppressed material from the past – outworn conditioning, traumas that haven’t been worked all the way through, anything that no longer serves the individual’s personal and/or soul growth – rise to the surface to be seen and dissolved. Everyone on this pilgrimage would go through such episodes to a greater or lesser degree, but we were more than willing to face these inner demons knowing that the payoff is to taste the inherent beauty and love that lies beyond the psychological mind.
And, of course, there was also the rooftop vantage point for communing with the mountain. After the first afternoon satsang ended, I meandered to the old house and sat with others in the slanting late-afternoon light, marveling at the swarms of dragonflies darting about overhead. They were a regular feature, but before India, I had never seen more than two dragonflies in one place at one time, so I was awestruck. The dragonfly, of course, is a symbol of transformation, so it only seemed fitting to see them in droves in this setting. I was fascinated with this beautiful old house, enchanted by the faded elegance, the shapes and angles of the staircases, the weathered surface textures, the colors. Some walls looked like they could have been framed as abstract works of art and placed in a museum. I took numerous photographs.
Day 3 was rough. I got up at 5 because I was intending to go on a 6:15 hike with some of the others. Intestinal disturbance dictated otherwise. I stayed in bed, skipping breakfast. The symptoms persisted so I talked to Amrita, who gave me some homeopathic pellets to take as needed. I skipped the meditation, but went for Deva’s monologue and the dialogues, then went back to my room to rest. I skipped lunch and afternoon satsang.
At bedtime I became terribly homesick. I felt like an unwanted child thrust into an unloving world. My response, as per Deva’s instruction, was to simply “be with what is” without any story or interpretation. One of Deva’s frequent dictums is: “How do you know what you want? What you want is ‘what is.’ ” Deva would say that all this was happening by Grace, at the behest of the Beloved for my freedom. In truth, I could make up a million stories to explain what I was feeling, but I really didn’t know what was going on or why I was feeling it so intensely, and there was no way to distract myself here.. I had to face it.
Come empty into the cave of the heart.
Leave your pretty frocks behind,
For there is no need of them here.
Don’t go looking for me in the city,
Even on the holy mountain.
You don’t have to improve yourself for me.
You are so precious just as you are.
Words cannot describe my love for you.
Your purity and and beauty illumine the night sky,
Like fireworks in celebration
Of your very existence.
My hand stopped writing, and I sat there in stunned silence, staring at the words that had poured forth. They had not come from my mind; it had been completely empty. It felt like they were a message from Ramana himself, responding to all the doubts, self-judgment and fears that had been arising in me. I sat in a state of quiet astonishment and gratitude. Some place in me that had always felt unworthy, frightened and insecure, relaxed as I read and reread the message. I knew that the reference to "your purity and beauty," did not refer to my physical form, but to my essential nature., which I was on this quest to discover..
The next day I felt much better. In fact, I had had begun to feel better as soon as those words were written. And, as if to emphasize a point, fireworks were set off all day long. in the area surrounding the ashram.
That day I wrote this poem:
There is sitting in lotus,
Then the practices fall away,
And there is only