Category Archives: Siddha Yoga

New Year’s Eve

This time of year has been hard for me. Not 2016 in particular but beginning with Christmas through New Year’s Eve. I usually breathe a sigh of relief when all this is over.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have a family–children, I mean–and am not in the majority, i.e., in a heterosexual couple, “normal,” if you will. I’ve been an Other most of my life. In the ’70s and ’80s I reveled in it, demonstrating and proclaiming words like liberation and patriarchy. In the ’90s I bought my first house with another woman. We were a couple for seven years and remain friends to this day. No kids, though, just a dog and two cats. I felt welcome in my neighborhood Northside, the up and coming urban and gritty gayborhood.

Now I’m retired and live on a road that used to be country (there’s a horse and a cow half a mile away!) but is turning suburban. I love my acre and creek and privacy among the trees. I live alone if you don’t count two dogs and two cats.

Yet I make it a point to invite women writer friends to my backyard deck. We toast our imagination and friendship and this is good. They are consciously chosen family, many of them. We share deep reflections and cry and laugh together. Some of us are crafting poems, others hope to write a Great American Novel. I love facilitating these classes and getting to know them so well.

It is morning on New Year’s Eve. What is it about it that so often has filled me with dread? I think it was those early years of drinking and drug experimenting. Being at parties with strangers. For much of my life I have known I felt separate. In recent decades I have worked on this: through Landmark Education, through zen meditation, through Siddha Yoga. Connection had become my mantra.

And this is good. I have chosen to focus on what unites us as people rather than separates. Certainly 2017 will not be easy with a President I abhor. I am disheartened to say the least. But a few relatives I love voted for DT and I still love them. Who said politics is ever easy? Who said life and loving comes easy?

This evening I will spend quietly in front of my fireplace with a new love who came to me in the spring. We have had a tough beginning, parting and coming back together. I do not take a moment for granted! I feel loved and this is the best wish I could wish for on New Year’s Eve.

Vulnerable about death today

I check my cell phone early in the day. It’s a habit, to be sure. What could be so earth shattering on Facebook, after all, that couldn’t wait until after breakfast?

This morning as I scanned the new items, I noticed a photo of an elephant that seemed to have tears in its eyes. The caption said they remember horrible things that have happened. I started to cry. I didn’t click to find out more. I wasn’t ready for any details.

Then I decided I was tired and needed a relaxing break so I watched a dvd from the public library: Delhi-6: The Journey Within. With music by A. R. Rahman, it had to be good. But I chose it because “the story is told against the backdrop of the ancient walled city of Delhi who is a character in herself.” It was a moving story of a grandson accompanying his grandmother back to India where she wants to die. He has grown up in the U.S. so must learn the ways of his extended family in Old Delhi. Turns out his father was Muslim and his mother Hindu. So this forbidden marriage of his parents out of love is set up in the macrocosm of the Muslim-Hindu tensions in the neighborhood. It gets a little silly with a black monkey monster loose in the city and the media’s animated obsession with this unknown evil. By the resolution, Roshan (main character) realizes the town fool is correct: look in the mirror and you see the divine but there is also potential for the black monkey terrorist when anger and fear lurk.

I was crying by the end of the film. Roshan nearly died, and in fact, he did for a few minutes but regained consciousness. His love, who almost elopes with a boyfriend, realizes Roshan is the one and they will somehow surmount her father’s objections.

Realizing I’d been inside all day, I took the dogs a walk to the creek behind our house. We walked down the west field a bit, passed through high grass where the deer cut through, then reached the creek. I sensed something before I could focus. There was something large lying there on the side of the creek: a dead deer. Eyes still open, blood from the rear–my dogs seemed to take it in stride but me? Now a rush of tears.

What was it about today? I had to take a look at what was going on.

In last night’s writing group, we were reading from Brenda Ueland’s IF YOU WANT TO WRITE. Here is what stood out for me:

“He [William Blake] did not mind death in the least. He said that to him it was just like going into another room.” When it was my turn to check in, I shared this memory about my mother’s death in 2007:

You know when Steve Jobs died and his sister shared with the world that his last words were “Wow!” Well, I can’t believe I could have forgotten but I did. Fortunately, I had documented her last hour at hospice in a poem. Toward the end, my mother had said “Amazing!” I had been so afraid of death, the final mystery. In recent years with meditating and chanting with my local Siddha Yoga group, I had become less so. While I want to believe that death is like going into another room, intellectually is one thing and getting closer is quite another. I will be 64 next February and aging is a concern of mine. So is death evidently!

So when I cry for that dead deer, am I sad she died? For we all must. Am I projecting my own? After all, alone in a creek is better than dead in the road. It is not rational, this much I know. And the moon is not full and maybe I just have had too much time alone these past few days, time to reflect more deeply. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with crying. Doesn’t it mean I’m open? Being vulnerable is part of being human. I just didn’t know I’d wake up and feel so human today.

focus on what you love

This has become my new affirmation, thanks to a flier I received in the mail from LensCrafters that has this line as their come-on (focus = get new glasses, get it?). So will I do it?

This morning I am off to a good start. Awoke at 6:00 a.m. and actually got up. Chanted as the sun came up, then meditated. Now I’m at a local coffeehouse before doing a few errands in my neighborhood. Tonight I go to the local Siddha Yoga Meditation Center for satsang.

This week the fall session of Women Writing for (a) Change began. It was good to be back in a class! Being in a small group each week with listeners for my writing pieces really helps with the discipline I need to write regularly. Following class, there was a Women Writing New Media Circle meeting. There are six of us now as we create, organize, host, and record podcasts. It’s always a good sign if there is laughter at a meeting. (We blame it partly on the chocolate)!

Fall is my favorite season. I am glad, and grateful, to be able to go outside when I want. Thirty years of full-time work inside a building took its toll. My dogs are happy they are getting more walks. I am happy I can watch the leaves turn colors, then go out and crunch them under my feet any time of day.

My time is opening up since I quit going to hatha yoga classes. Although I would try for three classes a week, usually I made it to two. Having two mornings open up is a goddess-send. I enjoyed the classes and like the teacher but . . . I now feel free, as a retiree should. I have been too quick to say yes to the Universe, I fear. Now I must prioritize — focus on what I love.

A stranger’s ashes are on my puja

It has only been since Friday and I still can’t get used to it. In fact, I’ve avoided my meditation room for days, knowing a small vial of Steven Robert Greb’s ashes are there. I put them there, on my puja (altar), because I don’t know yet where to scatter them. They serve as a stark reminder of how precious life is.

Richard and I went as ‘ambassadors’ of Siddha Yoga, specifically the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center in Cincinnati. The funeral home called the Center’s phone line on Labor Day and requested that someone come to the memorial in Miamisburg, Ohio and represent Steve’s spiritual practice. I read from Baba Muktananda about not fearing death, and Richard played ten minutes of the mantra. Afterwards, we discovered that several close family members had been to the ashram and met Gurumayi. Life is full of surprises!

Meanwhile, death. I face it daily in the form of Steve’s remains. I already had a fierce relationship with time. Ever since I’ve been an adult, I have had a certain free floating anxiety about having enough time, getting everything done before . . . . . you know. Seeing that phrase “having enough time” slams it in my face. First, I can’t possess time and what is “enough,” who decides? It’s a crazy race I’ve been running and I’m tired of it.

I, Phebeananda, do hereby declare that I am in charge of my own schedule. I decide my priorities (except when death and life circumstances intervene, ha!). There’s no time to waste yet I can rest and relax as I may. And if I forget the urgency of doing what’s important to me, I can sit in front of my puja and talk to Steve.

the trees are so beautiful I can hardly stand it

This is exactly the sentence that came to me as I drove home today, early afternoon, after chant practice.

Scott, Kabir, and I were at the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center practicing our live chant for Mahashivaratri. “Om Nama Shivaya” of course, the four part one that is so especially lovely. After singing and playing along with the cd, Scott had us do it acappello, coming in one by one and really blending with one another. Wow!

Then we sang with harmonium and mrdanga. We had the meditation hall to ourselves–well, us, the shakti, and the gurus. We shared and laughed and had a full hour and a half practice. Feeling excited about Thursday’s satsang.

It was somewhere before Mt. Healthy that I saw them. A line of trees stood magically with their snow covered branches, right there along Cross County Highway. That’s when the sentence came to me. I thought: how bhakti. How perfect this day was. How beautiful my drive home. I quit listening to the music playing in my car. I should write about this, my mind told me. Yeah. As if I could explain. Really. But close enough is good enough.

Many of us have had blissful moments when we are no longer part of nature, not even in it but of it. Oneness. Time stands still. This is what makes life worth living. A cosmic reminder.

Thank you, Tree Goddesses. When I got home I put out some more bird seed for my neighborhood birds. On a special stone under the leaning tree just outside my writing window. I feel as if I gave back, not that I needed to. But still.

bye to Betsy

Yesterday was my final session with Betsy. Yep, I can call her that. Even though she’s my therapist, we’ve had a casual, friendly style. I’d know her before–she’s a musician and singer in the community–but not on a personal basis. It was more that we knew who each other was.

She told me she’d miss me and that, if something came up, I could call. Betsy checked my file and told me I’d been seeing her since November 2004. I first went to see her when I was dating T. and I was cast in a net of angst about relationships. Mine was a Woody Allen kind of neurosis. Eventually things settled down and I used my inner social worker to deal with things.

Early 2007, I remember pulling to the side of a road and calling her. My words were something like: “I think I need to see you again to deal with issues of loss and grief.” I was driving home from seeing my mother, at home under hospice care. She was dying of lung cancer. At the same time, my girlfriend A. (who I dreamed I could marry) started withdrawing. Either one of these losses could have done me in but both at the same time seemed too much to handle.

By May of that year, I discovered the joy that had been hidden inside (but that’s another story). I owe much of my recovery to Siddha Yoga practices. The fact that I was divine revealed Herself. Iris and daffodils bloomed wildly around me. The first puppy I ever had sat next to me on the garden bench. Birds were chirping. The creek flowed, teaching me about change. I was retired, had a home in a lovely setting, and life was good, after all. Sometimes I even found bliss.

Betsy said I’d grown from “What’s wrong with me?” to a greater acceptance of myself. I told her if I were President of the United States, I’d include a once-a-month counseling session for everyone in the new health bill. How gratifying it was to have someone to hear me out each month and be my advocate (when I couldn’t be one for myself). I have my friends and my writing and meditation: all these are ways to keep in touch with myself. Meanwhile, I’ll see Betsy next month: she’s doing a concert at College Hill Coffee Company. I’ll be there in the audience cheering her on.

Happy Guru Purnima! / with poem 96

Today marks Guru Purnima, (the full moon day of the Guru). Guru Purnima is the day when students have the opportunity to express our deep gratitude for the great gifts we have received from our Guru.

I am new to Siddha Yoga. My years of zen practice, I believe, served me well and provided me with a certain discipline. The main reason I ‘left’ Zen Buddhism is because when I saw my first arati being performed, it was as if I felt my heart opened. I discovered what had been missing: bhakti (devotion).

Gurumayi, I came to You out of grief and You showed me Joy. I came to You not knowing if there was a God; now I know there is — and that I, too, am Divine. How could I possibly ever thank You? The seva I do is but a small token of my gratitude. ~ Om Guru Om ~

Devotion

I kept putting women on pedestals
now I know I had the right impulse
now my devotion flows naturally to You