Tapa(s) That Mountain

 

Climbing Pinnacle Mountain today was difficult. Stomach problems made it painful internally but it was not even an *Arkansas* hot day. There was a breeze that accompanied me as I wheezed, heaved, & groaned my way up the East Summit.

Damn, I love that mountain.

Every bit of the experience was familiar to me (though I did not used to be this challenged on the way up…). The contours on boulders smoothed by hundreds of feet scaling them each week, the canopy of leaves overhead, the friendly faces who greet & cheer you on as you ascend & they descend the steep trail. I adore the crags on either side of the worn path. I love the coolness afforded by the vines and greenery all around. I love the feeling of my chest rising & falling at the summit as I gaze for miles & miles, soaking in the sherbet sunrise. I hear firecrackers, set off not far away & roll my eyes.

God, I love this place.

This walk triggers a plethora of memories. When I was a child the mountain seemed so long, the trek lest arduous but definitely more lengthy. During high school for a time I climbed the mountain weekly with a fierce group of young women. We explored the crags & swung off tree branches. It got easier for us every week, but never lost its’ lustrous challenge, it never stopped reminding us of the warrior-women within. None of us spoke out loud of how powerful it showed us to be, this weekly strength practice–we were taught to be docile & dainty–but I know we all felt it. And secretly shared it. If the other girls do not remember, then I will be guardian and remember-er, and secret keeper of these memories.

In yogic philosophy  there is an idea called “tapas”. According to Deborah Adele, Tapas is the fiery determined effort we can make to offer ourselves up to transformation, by way of strength training, meditation, or any other focused practice. Tapas is discipline, it is taking the difficult action because in your gut you know it is the right action. Tapas is the courage to step into the fire for the sake of being purified.

Pinnacle Mountain has been a place where I have cultivated Tapas. That summit has been & was again tonight the altar where I offer myself to God, to transformation, to my higher, truer, better self.

I love it. Oh, I love it very much.

Here’s to more cardio & less carbs.

Feel the holy burn, friends!

 

Lydia Nomad

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Buried in Books

Buried in books is my natural state, I am hesitant to say it, but without a doubt of the truth. Though extroversion has dominated my personality and habits for the greater part of my young life, it is the navel-gazing, spiritually interested, booky introvert that continually emerges as the prevailing force. Currently I am reading 5 books*, and enjoying them all. I am certain there are droves of introverts out there who have me beat by stacks and piles, but I have weeded through small stacks brought home from the library to come comfortably back to a blend of spiritual and emotionally nourishing titles–radially diverse–that resonate in my Spirit.

All that to say, I need to write about Jesus. As the stresses of mental ill health, a new job, new home, and constant transitions have ebbed, this truer, quieter self has emerged and with it, this question of Jesus. That name, in English or in many other of the worlds’ languages conjures up strong feelings. I do not know exactly what feelings or to what extent, but I do know that people are strongly influenced by it, and thus the name “Jesus” does to the emotional body what food does to a group of hungry creatures: stirs things up.

My mind awoke during my time abroad in unexpected, broadening ways. My heart, however, grew dim & cold–choked out by fear & foreign stimuli. Jesus lived in that heart, the heart that seemed to shrivel & hardly beat for over a year. The idea of Jesus grew distant–has grown distant–as the words I stare at on the well-worn pages of my Bible fail to quench the thirst for intellectual satisfaction that arose in me.

People around me now seem more real than Jesus. I never met Jesus, never even saw him in a vision. He was a powerful historical figure, yes, but not extraordinarily different than any of the other ancient peace-seekers and bringers. My faith was real, the ideas of Jesus had been my Home on Earth for two decades. Was it okay to say “no more”? Was that what I was saying? But I wasn’t saying anything. I was listening to my inner Spirit and seeking to be true to it–as the idea of the Holy Spirit had taught me. And the last, most gut-wrenching question: Don’t I owe Jesus something for the time we spent together? Will Jesus be jealous as I move to a new Guru, to new exploration?

That isn’t Jesus’ nature, dear, my Spirit & Heart harmonize in my Mind. You have read the Bible enough times to know that to exact payment for beauty that springs from Loving Ideals is not of the Divine. Just as Jesus was of the Divine, so is your new Guru. That is why the Spirit within you has led you to these stacks of books in quest for renewed guidance, ready to receive the sharp blade of Truth.

So he is with me, it seems. I do not read the Bible, but there he is, guiding me as a remembrance of the form and nature of Love. Jesus will never not be with me. It is progress, however, to lay prayer and pleas on the altar, to burn them away in the fire of acceptance, of serene surrender to come-what-may.

The idea of Jesus was never meant to bring me guilt. Just as I was never meant to be a social butterfly who reads only magazines on airplanes. Jesus was there, Sri Yukteswar is here, and who knows who, what, or where the future holds?

Sat Nam (Truth is my identity).

 

Lydia Nomad

 

*The Power of Breath, Swami Saradananda

Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda

A Severed Wasp, Madeleine L’Engle (stunning; I will have finished it by this weekend.)

Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart

Cuentos que contaban nuestras abuelas, Campoy & Flor Ada

(I am blessed to have I’m Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown, and A Poetry Handbook, by Mary Oliver, in my possession and up next on the reading list!)

An Orange and Grief, A Poem

I ate an orange

on the way to my parents house

last weekend; I placed the

peel on the rubber mat at my feet.

When I arrived, I asked:

“Where is the compost pile?”

Which is to say, I asked:

“Where does this peel go to be sewn

into the Mother?” (Having served

its nutritive purpose.) Is that what the

tornado asked when it picked her up and carried

her?

Did it know where she would be

sewn back into the Earth? It did so

violently.

I punctured the orange peel, but with

a gentle thumbnail.

What Makes a Good Life?

Breathing, sitting, meditating, taking long Saturday naps. These are hazardous exercises, my friends. How so? Well, participate in this rebellion and one finds oneself asking alarming questions such as, Do I Like My Job?, Do The People In My Life Encourage Me?, Am I Working Too Hard?, How Long Has It Been Since I Sat Down to a Good Meal With Friends, or What Makes a Good Life?

The last question is delicious: What Makes a Good Life? What. Makes. A. Good. Life. It is a question that comes from deep in the girdle of ones being. Try and prescribe what the thinking mind calls “good” for life without consulting the body, mind, heart, and spirit, and end up with a schedule bursting at the seams, and yourself in the role of consumer. A prescription is unnecessary. Just listen. The travails and dead ends of every day are speaking into what makes and does not make your life good.

I write these words because My Life and I have been discussing this Good Life topic lately. Now in a full time position, but still working out part time commitments, and cultivating ethical habits at home (gardening/composting/recycling/actually cleaning stuff), I say to you, LIFE IS REAL BRUH. It is taxing, exhausting, and calling me to live from that girdle of being, and not settle for anything short of my Sat Nam (true self). Settling or compromising part of myself leads–as yet without fail–to frustration, internal conflict, and eventual disconnection from one or more of my core values (for help to identify your core values, click here). Those frustrations are redemption disguised for they catalyze this holy question: What Makes a Good Life?

 

 

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Raw & Real, Earth redeems us by calling our muchness to surface.

Friends, I say. Friends faces around a bonfire or dinner table, simultaneously remembering and creating. Hours on the couch with a kitten or cat, I declare, make a life gooooood. Legs curled under me and a soft blanket with a Madeleine L’Engle novel in hand. The smell of incense and the sensation of fingertips pressed into a sticky mat, hips rising in Adho Muka Svanasana. Meditation makes a Good Life, and the practice of Pranayama (channeling the inherent inner Life Force via breathing exercises). Vegan food, bought from ethical sources. Long conversations or silent walks around a lake. Toes on dirt, shovel playing with the layered compost pile. Throwing dry leaves into the air and watching them fall like glitter. Travel travel travel. Live music or listening to a song on Spotify that makes me weep as I hold my phone against my chest before I fall asleep. Exploration of the natural world is undoubtedly a pillar of a Good Life. Taking time to greet my own wide smile in the mirror before and after the day. Talking to young people about their authentic feelings and perceptions. Touching the skin of people who are old enough to wear it like soft cloth. Looking at baby hands and feet as they kick and learn to grab.

 

 

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You, Little One, make this a Good Life.

 

Sometimes not doing an activity, not making a commitment, or even cancelling one that is already made, is the path to a Good Life. Turning off the television or current video playing on your phone ALWAYS leads to better life. These practices and experiences, sacred and most often simple, in addition to removal of that which lowers the quality of my life’s essence (TV, videos, too much work, “obligatory” social events), I have found to make A Good Life.

Ask and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. ~Jesus, our precious Jesus

Amen. Shanti.

Lydia Nomad

Ahimsa & My Ego

Heart ablaze again, guide me. You I consult in times of humility. You I live by, you my internal North Star. The Jesus before and after they spoke to me of him. You, preservation of my relationships, hope of my days. 

This week I said the most powerful and dreaded word in the English language. Never expected that from myself, consciously or by accident. As a believer (believer in Spirit, that is, the world inside our world, always conspiring to make itself known to the physical beings), a mistake of this kind leads to deep introspection. In fact, since getting suspended from my job, I have passed days almost entirely alone and in deep reflection. How did I get so out of touch with my heart that a word contrary to who I have worked to become, slipped, like any other word, across my lips? That is Spirit. That is Spirit asking for attention. True sign of my need to pay attention. To get woke anew already.

You see, waking up to the pain of those around us isn’t a one time thing. It is an evolutionary (gradual; see Everything is Spiritual for a deeper explanation of this idea) process. I cannot one day decide that I will abide by the revolutionary ideals of Jesus and stand against the system of domination and expect myself to….abide there from that day forward. That is uncomfortable territory. That is asking the ego to bow. That is tough shit.

Violence happens to humans everyday in the form of unkind or careless words and actions: all the grub and grime of a groaning and restless world. Our fears are the first application process, so to speak, through which that daily violent input must pass. Fear we encounter on the daily  is a disruption which can become either ego fodder or transformation fuel. Author Deborah Adele says that there are two kinds of fear: instinctual fear, for the sake of survival, and fear of the unfamiliar (The Yamas and Niyamas, 2009). Those of us who exist on the more posh side of life (a place to live, some food to eat, very few–if any–daily threats to security, health, and freedom) are prone to over-entertainment of the second kind of fear. (It goes all the way back to the Old Testament IMO, when they scaped those poor goats all the way to the wilderness with everybody’s adultery and disrespect and masturbation tied on its’ back; A live metaphor for the weight of human sin.) When humans have time and/or security, they seem to begin to react to fears (real or unreal, rational or irrational–ego food all the same), and inevitably accumulate guilt. Well….who is around to interrupt this fear and guilt cycle? Who trips us up when we walk in the pride caused by this treacherous consumption of fear? Them. People (especially those at or near the top of the food chain) like to pin guilt on them. The ones without fear. The ones who face fear number one and still have the nerve to stand on street corners asking for money. The ones who do the-thing-I-never-would and dare to continue living instead of melting into the dehumanizing guilt-puddle we expect. It’s yuck, but it’s human. Or, tragically, entire people groups scapegoat other entire people groups because of the truth they tell about history (see: Black Experience in America). Humans do this, and then the ego, if unaddressed by empathy (or equal parts suffering), laps that stuff up like a thirsty puppy, and, like a puppy, it grows. Then, perhaps, it bites.

The same day I am dismissed from work, I reach up to grab a book or two off the Black History Month shelf at Terry library, and for the first time, insecurity chases my hand back into my pocket. Racist, I hear the voice of accusation inside my head. What are you trying to cover up? 

The ego growls and I snarl to myself: the injustice of it! That my innocent action should be inhibited by a single misunderstanding. One accusation.

One accusation, not even voiced outright had me suspended in inaction and egoism.

Violence to fear. Violence reaps fear. If I refuse to scapegoat this insecurity grounded in fear, where does it go?

Transformation fuel. To quote Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul.), “…we are held responsible for our every action, thought and feeling, which is to say, for our every intention.” Pay by what you outsource to others, or pay by running your own transformation race. The choice is always ours.

I have found that my ego’s kryptonite is understanding. When I take the time to understand, I overcome violence in myself, and in my interactions with others by the power of peace and by lofty aspirations of Love. Understanding often leads me to tears; this time I can’t help reflect on how hurtful this me-centered attitude must have been over the course of these callous months, culminating in my utterance of that unfit word, to my minority friends, or friends living on the corner of gender and racial discrimination* in this often hateful society. I acted contrary to the magnificent Eastern value of Ahimsa; nonviolence, and thus, contrary to my deepest self. I can do better. We can do better.

One accusation, result of my mistake, shaved ounces off my ego. No wonder the African American community has offered the world countless humble artists, truth-tellers, and thundering prophets. How many accusations do they hear in a day, my brothers and sisters next door, yet so far away from me? Drunk. Lazy. Racist. Dumb. Inadequate. Inferior. The list goes on, for them and for our Native American kindred. May my white ego stop short, as those of my friends are forced to every time they leave their homes.

So much to learn, so much loving left to do.

Gratitude & Hope for Ahimsa,

Lydia Nomad

 

*For more on this idea of Intersectionality visit The Liturgists

 

I Can Laugh Again

There is a moment of my life that I will never stop writing about.

It is you, Jamal. You fiery young one, left alone in so many ways.

I find myself burning with the desire to write about those moments which cannot be written or comprehended: they cannot be anything more than marveled at, danced with.

Yet here I am, writing just like people write about one another, about pets and history and anatomy. We do not know. We are alive. We explore, either because we want to know, or because we are alive, or both. Only the people know why.

There is me, there was me, there was that moment. Then there is the power that moment has to touch today–two years later–and to shape the moments I have survived between those two: today, that day.

It was Love, that moment. I thought I knew something of God (or gods) then; now I know I do not. I attributed it to God then, that love, but today I know less of that day than I did then though I have gained much from it.

When I saw the vein in his neck protruding and his head hung and his arms slung around like he was trying to convince us to be against him though, really, he was begging someone to be for him when he could not be for himself.

As something or someone in me rose up to be that one, graciously, unconditionally, for him in a crowd of embarrassed scoffers, I experienced the inexplicable Love. I pushed in as he pushed against himself because I know what it is to be trapped and alone and have no idea which way would be a better way because this is all I know.

That love changed everything because I felt such a wave of grace, such bizarre empowerment, that from then on (skipping like a school girl with a jump rope from that day to this day to all the rest of my days) I knew that if Love is true you will not need it anymore when it goes.

True Love gives you something so that when it leaves, you will not ultimately doubt its goodness but will trust its infilling power and know that when it is just you with yourself again, you will have a bit more of you to face you with.

There will be moments that skip across your life like smooth stones on a river, they will touch you, change you, and you will find yourself in that unpredictable phenomenon.

Someone or something will move toward you and you will move toward someone else. That is called dancing, and it is born from and carried out by Love.

You are loved

and

you will come to Love you.