Tag Archives: bliss

Satsang with Laurel and Dan

I’ve had the pleasure–blissful pleasure–to participate in an evening of kirtan and a satsang, both this month of August.

It took me an entire year to make it up there, to Kettering (near Dayton, Ohio), a mere hour away. Their gatherings have come to my email. I wanted to drive up last August to the celebration of Anandamayi Ma but didn’t have the energy to do so.

Two weeks ago, I almost literally ‘made’ myself go. Was I glad I did! Laurel is the real deal. She spent nearly three years with Ma at her ashrams. Laurel shared stories of Ma. In the background when we arrived, there were recordings of Ma and a devotee chanting. Bliss! I knew right then I came to the right place.

Laurel has been teaching hatha yoga since 1974. I’m not sure how long she’s been having these chanting sessions. I did find out she and Dan married eight? years ago; Laurel called him her music teacher. They make a wonderful team: Laurel usually plays harmonium and Dan guitar. Both plan mridangam (Indian double headed drum), and usually someone in the audience also plays percussion, making the sound echo from all sides of you.

Well, I’ve used terms like “sides,” and “you,” but once I become immersed in a chant, there is no side or me. One of the appeals of chanting is to let go of my mind, my head, my egoic self. I want to let go, become one, feel the bliss.

And both visits I have. I’ll be back.

At satsang gatherings, Laurel focuses on an Indian saint. Last night was Sri H.W.L. Poonja, known affectionately as Papaji. I have had the fortune of coming across some encounters with Poonja on YouTube. I love Who He Is (or seems to be); he is so down-to-earth and laughs contagiously (he left his body in 1997). Poonja stresses simplicity and tells us:

“You are always Free.

There is no teacher,

there is no student,

there is no teaching.”

These words remind me of Dogen and other of the zen teachers. I do love it when the practices I have studied all come together 🙂

I haven’t even mentioned how wonderfully they decorate the space! The altar/puja extends both sides of the stage. Multicolored lights enliven the atmosphere and make it festive. All this really helps me feel immersed in the sound and complement our series of mini meditations throughout the evening.

By now you realize I will be driving north to Kettering on a regular basis. I feel such sincerity and warmth from Laurel and Dan!

Note: Their gatherings take place at Center for Spiritual Living (4100 Benfield Dr., Kettering, OH). Laurel’s website is home.earthlink.net/~dalamitoh/index.html) *** I received no payment or promises for promoting them ***

The Geography of Bliss

I recently finished reading Eric Weiner’s book The Geography of Bliss. The subtitle explains more: “One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World.” Of course, the word ‘bliss’ caught my attention right away. His idea of traveling the world to discern what differences culture, religion, and expectations make intrigued me. After all, this NPR Correspondent would pay the plane fare and do the traveling for us!

He discovered geography does make a difference. Moldova and Qatar I couldn’t wait to get out of (those chapters, that is). Moldovans were, according to the World Database of Happiness, the unhappiest on the planet [yes, there really is such a database: Ruut Veenhoven in The Netherlands]. The people Weiner talked to in this former Soviet Republic claimed it was lack of money that made them unhappy. I couldn’t wait to get through reading that chapter, it brought me down so much. Money wasn’t the main factor at all: the Persian Gulf’s Qatar, where most are rich because their country sits on the world’s third largest reserve of natural gas, disproved that myth about money. Qataris, the author maintains, “possess a strange mix of arrogance and insecurity. What they crave, most of all, is validation.” Their position within the tribe matters more than money or education. Although tribes can be nurturing, it seemed in this “gilded sandbox” that in spite of all their money, Qataris were not happy.

Although I enjoyed being transported back to India (“where happiness and misery live side-by-side”), my favorite learnings were from Bhutan and Thailand. Weiner’s lesson from Thailand was mai pen lai which translates to “never mind.” This lighthearted “don’t worry be happy” encourages one to just let go rather than go insane holding on to an impossible situation. Bhutan’s culture of crazy wisdom, he says, made him lose his bearings “and when that happens a crack forms in your armor. A crack large enough, if you’re lucky, to let in a few shafts of light.” The author meets with a Buddhist Rinpoche who tells him we must be ready for the moment we “cease to exist.” Compassion is what really matters. After all, as the Rinpoche tells him, “You see, everything is a dream. Nothing is real. You will realize that one day.” Then the Rinpoche laughed and returned to his chanting. Weiner’s summary on Bhutan? “In America, few people are happy, but everyone talks about happiness constantly. In Bhutan, most people are happy, but no one talks about it.”

Back in 1973, Bhutan’s King Wangchuk created for his nation the concept of Gross National Happiness. A Bhutanese hotel owner described it this way: GNH means “knowing your limitations; knowing how much is enough.” With Gross National Happiness the official policy of the government of Bhutan, “every decision . . . is viewed through this prism. Will this action we’re about to take increase or decrease the overall happiness of the people?” The U.S. has its Gross Domestic Product, the sum of all goods and services a nation produces. Weiner wisely perceives that our GDP measures oil spills, prison population, the sale of assault rifles and prescription drugs — all these contribute to The Count regardless of merit. He quotes Robert Kennedy as acknowledging that the GDP doesn’t take into account “the beauty of our poetry . . . ,” measuring everything “except that which makes life worthwhile.”

This book makes you think — deeply. Weeks later, I apply it to my life:

* Paying a mortgage by myself makes me unhappy. But when T lived here and shared the bills (this woman I supposedly loved), I wasn’t happy.
* I tire of driving a half hour each way to the east side of town. Lately, I fantasize about moving. But would my small scale change of geography make me happy?
* “Making” is not a part of happiness. It has to do with allowing, letting in, openness. No matter where I live.
* My delivering Meals on Wheels gives me perspective and a chance to practice compassion. Applied compassion. Although some mornings I grumble about leaving my house to deliver those meals, “my people” always give back more. Something less tangible than a bag of food. Appreciation, sincerity, love.
* Sporadically, I suffer from exhaustion. I literally wear myself out. What a sad phrase that is! Do I forget that “doing” never trumps “being”? One of the main lessons of Landmark Education’s intensive workshop, The Landmark Forum, I learn this over and over again. I am still learning.

It seems that bliss can capture you anywhere: you only need to be awake enough to notice, still enough to be aware, and wise enough to follow it.

ambassadors of bliss

I met up with some friends at the Dilly Deli in Mariemont last Thursday. We had some great conversation but there was a reason I gathered us there: the Troubadours of Divine Bliss were playing!

Aime Me (acoustic guitar) and Renee (accordion) are two of the most talented women and musicians I’ve heard — and I’ve heard many over the decades. They are also very, very special people. I could tell this from the first time I heard them at College Hill Coffee Co. back in May [see May 31st blog post for details].

How can I tell they are special human beings? From the way they interacted with me right from the beginning. They look you in the eye and listen. They empathize. They laugh. They enjoy the conversation and interaction with you. It’s not just about being kind to a fan; it’s communicating on a deeper level.

When I went over to say goodbye after their concert at Dilly Deli, I joked about being their Cincinnati manager. “Volunteer!” I quickly added. Aim Me had a sparkle in her eyes. She gave me a name I felt I’d been searching for for some time: ambassador of bliss. She said she’d have to give me an ambassador of bliss badge. These two are about bliss. On their website and cd covers, they quote Rumi and Hafiz. These bliss masters remind us of what Life is Really About: love and well, bliss. For me, bliss is Oneness, bliss is being open to others and accepting them for who they are. Bliss is radiating your inner self and living your spirituality.

I felt such a connection with Aim Me in particular. I said “See you in September” and turned to go. I can’t remember now quite how it played out but somehow, Aim Me made a motion and I went back and we hugged again. We have a connection and it’s not just some groupie crush. She knows I genuinely love them and their music. I love how I feel in their presence. This is raising the spirit in a blissful way. I am glad to be an ambassador of bliss with and for The Troubadours.

bliss (poem 59)

bliss can come in many ways
a spark opening the heart
an accordion accessing nirvana

[note/optional piece of information: If you’re wondering where an accordion came from, see post below about the Troubadours’ concert]

Basking in the bliss . . .

Yesterday I chanted and meditated at a Global Audio Satsang event. What is that, you may ask? It’s been less than two years since I discovered Siddha Yoga. I knew of Gurumayi from friends but, evidently, the timing wasn’t right then. Baba Muktananda began a ‘Meditation Revolution’ back in the 1970s. He made two world tour visits to the U.S. May marks what would have been his 100th birthday. There was a celebration. The meditation center in Cincinnati participated in this worldwide program in his honor. The chanting and meditating were great and so was the company! I have found some wonderful friends in this group. Besides Women Writing for (a) Change, this is my main organization. Right now, I am sitting on a bench in my backyard, in front of a circular stone puja/altar I created. I hear the young red-shouldered hawk and a creek. Life is good.