Thursday, October 10, 2013

Divine Mother Hugs

This happened, very fittingly, the last year I went to Camp Harmony. For those of you who don’t know it, Camp Harmony is a 5-day folk music camp I attended every winter for many years, up until recently. It was my first introduction to concepts like intentional communities and karmic families, and it will always have a special place in my heart, thanks to this story and many others.

It was New Year’s Eve, the last night of camp. Well, early New Year’s morning by this point. I was starting to wander around saying goodnight to people, and goodbye in many cases, as we’d all be heading home the next day. In the dance hall there was a large group of kids (it’s a family-friendly camp) whose parents had evidently decided not to sweat the whole bedtime thing, given the occasion. They ranged from fairly small to probably early teens. Many I knew, many I didn’t.

Anyway, one of them that I did know heard that I was leaving and ran across the hall to give me a goodbye hug. And somehow the entire herd of them got swept up in his enthusiasm, and I was engulfed in one giant swarming hug that involved probably at least 15 kids. Pretty silly.

But then, after they all broke off and let me breathe again, one small boy complained that he didn’t really get a proper hug, because there were too many people in the way. Well, I’m not one to refuse hugs to adorable children, so naturally I remedied that situation.

That’s when something a little bit magical happened, as every one of those noisy, bouncy, up-way-too-late-at-night kids quietly lined up, single file, behind that first boy and waited for their turn to give and get their own hugs.

Our happy, friendly little scene had suddenly just expanded into something much greater. It wasn’t about us anymore — like I said, I didn’t even know some of these children — but there was Love around that needed to be expressed, and there we were to do it. So we did. It was so sweet I was nearly crying by the end, through all the smiles.

And then the moment passed, the children all scampered off, and I headed off to bed in a slight daze.

There aren’t many times Divine Mother reaches down and gives you a big hug without even bothering to be metaphorical about it, and it’s been a dear and comforting memory every time I’ve thought back to it over the last couple years. And in a way, it’s even sweeter now that I’m a monk, and especially as I watch our little band of brahmacharis growing larger. It’s a reminder that there will always be more people to love, and more than enough love to share around. We just need to remember where it’s coming from, and be open to letting it flow through us.

From Swamiji’s book, Affirmations for Self-Healing:
The whole world is my home, and the human race, my family.
With God’s kindness I embrace all men.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Energization Experiments

Midway through Spiritual Renewal Week this year, and thanks in large part to Shivani’s excellent workshop, it came to me that the Energization Exercises were going to be the key to reviving my sagging sadhanas.

I knew my practice of the exercises had become pretty rote, and that I needed to shake myself out of that. So one night, after the evening program, I went out by the Babaji statue on the Expanding Light lawn and went through my regular energization routine. It came out pretty much like it had been — automatic, inattentive, too fast. So as soon as I finished, I went right back to the beginning, said the prayer again, and started over.

It was better the second time. I kept my eyes closed, which helped me focus a bit more, and I made more of a point of tensing and releasing slowly, to really feel each stage of it. A decent improvement, but not terribly dramatic. So I started over a third time. Even better now, and I tried to visualize directing the energy as light to each part of my body in turn.

At that point — heck, why not? — I just dove right in and did the entire sequence a fourth time. By then I had a fantastic buzz going, and a palpable sense of energy gathered at the spiritual eye. I debated briefly trying for a fifth round, but had been energizing for nearly an hour at this point, and thought it might cross the line from energizing to tiring. So I just sat down on a nearby bench and meditated. I couldn’t even do any of the usual meditation techniques because I was already so focused, so I just sat there and enjoyed it. It made a great sadhana.

That night was really a turning point for me, and I’ve been continuing to do extra energization when I can. Not to quite that extent, but I’ll often do two rounds before my evening meditation if I have time. Occasionally doing more and going deeper also improves the quality of the other times when I only do the exercises once. And being more effectively energized has definitely improved my meditations.

More recently I had another fun energization revelation. Due to a late-running East West event last week I didn’t get to sleep that night until 1:00am, and as it happened I had to get up at 5:30 to lead the community meditation the next (well, the same) morning. One good thing about a situation like this is that it really gets you praying for help! And then help comes.

So I got up and only had time for a normal one-time-through the Energization Exercises before I had to lead an hour-and-a-half meditation, hopefully without completely falling asleep in the middle of it. And at the beginning of the meditation it occurred to me — out of desperation and the grace of God — to just do the Energization Exercises in my head. So I sat right there without moving a muscle, but visualizing every part of the sequence all the way through.

Turns out that’s quite an experience. With no muscle movement or tension to distract you, you can feel the energy as energy going everywhere you direct it. I followed that with an excellent meditation and absolutely no nodding off. And then I followed that with a full day at work, going straight to choir rehearsal for the evening’s event at the church, and then the event itself, before coming home in time for my evening meditation, in which I repeated the experiment. Afterwards, I was feeling so good I almost didn’t want to go to sleep. Though it did seem like probably a good idea.

These two tricks aren’t magic bullets, and haven’t had the same dramatic effects every time I’ve tried them since. There seems to be a special grace that comes in on the “discovery” of something like this, that you then just have to coast on as much as possible. But they’re still both very useful tools for the toolbox.