This Is The Place
There may be no place to go, just the OM home of the here and now, but I’ve been traveling for the last two weeks and, let me tell you, I’ve been a lot of places both inside and out.
First I went to Albuquerque for my goddaughter’s bat mitzvah. There was the mishpuka (a probably misspelled Yiddish word that means all the crazy relatives) and all the chaos involved in helping to put on and photograph a series of events (rehearsals, meals with out-of-towners, the main service, the big party). There also was my goddaughter’s absolutely exquisite singing of her Torah portions and the blessings and prayers. For her, it was truly a spiritual initiation, a rising into the next level of both adulthood (or teenager-hood) and commitment to her path (at least her path at this moment of her life), and a real sense of community. But being Jewish never cut it for me. Being Jewish meant bagels and lox and The New York Times. I loved her singing, but somehow Sanskrit resonates more with me than Hebrew.
Then I went to Santa Fe, where I spent days with my ex-father-in-law, the 90-year-old patriarch of a large family of Maharajji devotees. He’s starting the process of turning inward. He’s not into storytelling, doesn’t seem to have real highs or lows, just a steady march on shaky legs into a hopefully dignified ending. He is living the lessons of changing and letting go that are so necessary at any stage of life, but especially the one he’s now facing. And the same is true for his wife of the last 30 years, as her life changes along with his.
I saw old friends. Some are going through extremely difficult times of suffering—loved ones dying, children with serious problems, career frustrations, economic difficulties—heartbreak in all its manifestations. All the sorrows of the world. While others are rising above, getting through the hard times and coming out stronger and more alive and more creative.
The wheel of karma. The law of life. It’s in the midst of all this living that we learn to let go. It’s loving fiercely and letting go. Parenting and letting go. Watching parents go. Living more here, in the moment, in the now of life, whatever it may hold, whatever it may ask us to hold.
And then I went to Taos, the home of America’s Hanuman, the one temple in the West that bears Maharajji’s name. And oh, what a tempest in a teapot that’s been over the decades! The factions, the fights, the wounds that have been inflicted and never let go of. Along with the rich silent heart space where the beautiful murti of Hanuman and Maharajji’s tucket share equal billing.
Ram Dass created the temple inadvertently. I don’t know where his desire stemmed from, but he was the one who had a 600-pound marble murti sculpted in India (in his flying pose, as he was going to have to cross another ocean) and brought to America. We had a small bandhara on some land in northern New Mexico, where the crate was opened. And suddenly there was the question: What are we going to do with him? Where will he live?
He wound up living in Taos, and it’s there that I felt the pull of polarity the strongest. The temple/ashram is a large container for the area seekers and devotees, the hungry or just crazy. I always thought of it as a big pot of soup, a caldron, really, and Maharajji picks up his ladle and stirs the soup, and all us little veggies collide into each other, and in the process, melt a bit more. My old (and getting older) friends spend less or no time at the temple, some with nostalgia for the good old days, while some actively oppose its existence.
In the end, we all define our own path. There’s no need to worry about “finding” ourselves. Here we are. Doing what we do. Suffering/loving/suffering/loving in a million different ways. It gets so clear: love it all. Love what’s happening now, right in front of you. When you keep loving, keep the heart open, and try to be kind, even the suffering is love.
Today I fly home. As if I ever left.