I am up again before the birds. What a frustrating few days it’s been. The yoga classes continue to be superior but the daily living piece is challenging. Upon arriving, I figured out quickly that the internet is my lifeline to every one and every thing I love and cherish in the world. I became addicted the first week to it’s hidden powers as it helped me to feel connected and confident. What a difference, to be able to read emails and look at pictures, surf the waves of knowledge and of course, the creme de la creme, Skype. I’m reminded of Abigail Adams writing about how she would wait for months for word from John Adams across the sea in France. I can’t even imagine the patience and character she must have possessed, and to think when she got the long awaited message from her beloved it was a handwritten letter, with no pictures, no video, and OLD news.
Being completely computer illiterate was only mildly irritating at home since my family could usually deal with any problems that arose and for the serious stuff there was always-The Apple Store. So it wasn’t without trepidation that I left my I-T support behind, but I had a plan, all my passwords were on a secure document that I practiced opening and memorized the very simple and meaningful password. Just a note here on passwords, my family and my computer chide me for my “weak” choices and so I’ve begun adding the occasional number or symbol to buck it up. When I arrived, I was staying a local hotel because the apartment wasn’t yet available and when I went to the front desk to get the information necessary to log on, the man carefully wrote 0987654321. I laughed out loud, and he shot me a look. Later, I was given my second password of the trip: password. Now this one I thought was cleaver, you could never forget that.
Then it happened, like cutting an umbilical cord, the connection just stopped and it didn’t come back. When it happened a week ago, I literally felt panic setting in like an animal in a trap, first crazy with nervous energy pacing and moving then slowly curling up and accepting fate. This time, however, I had a little more control, at least for the first 24 hours. The time freed up by the loss of the computer nudged me back to a wonderful book I had been listening to on the plane, Meister Eckhart’s Living Wisdom, an analysis of the writings of the 12th century Christian mystic. The beauty and depth of his writing was soothing. He talked about the human condition which is grounded in ego consciousness and exiled from the oneness of God. My desiring self and all that it desires, my remembering self and all that it remembers is finite. We must leave behind this inner familiarity of ourselves and glimpse the something that is calling us to our ourselves, within us and beyond us. But how? How do we detach from this earthly plane? Detachment consists of not letting the conditions of the present moment, regardless of what the conditions are, determine the fundamental state of my mind and heart. We must surrender ourselves over to the experience we seek and stop trying to take it back to our ego consciousness. That gave me something to ponder.
I’ve become friendly with one of my landlords, a kind and gentle woman with wisdom and humility, not to mention a great source for bottled water. When we first arrived here the locals were in the midst of a huge celebration for the goddess, Ganasha, remover of obstacles. I couldn’t help but wonder later about the strength of her internet skills. We were visiting my new friend our first night here and she shared with us a beautiful room that is spiritual space dedicated to her guru, the late Ma Indira Devi. She told us about the Hare Krishna temple across the street where we could attend chanting in the evenings and listen to teachings. Then she anointed us by dipping her finger in oil and then red powder and pressing it quickly to our foreheads. There was laughter all around and we took selfies with our newly minted Bindis.
Yesterday I had my first real problem, while enjoying my granola for breakfast there was a sudden an extra crunch, like a fragment of walnut shell or wayward grist. I stopped, not wanting to break a tooth, probed around with my tongue and discovered it WAS a tooth. Indeed, my back left molar had lost a chunk that felt like The Grand Canyon. I spit the remains of my precious tooth and tangled granola into a napkin and frantically searched for fragments, something still in tact, as though I could glue it back if I had all the right pieces. It’s strange what your mind does when you get a burst of adrenaline in a foreign country. My mental calendar quickly whirled back a year to China and that fateful trip to the hospital… Trying to regain composure I got up, told Karen what happened and began to flush the granola from my mouth. I contorted to look with a mirror and assess the damage, as my heart rate at a glacial pace, returned to normal. Thankfully, it wasn’t painful, save a little edginess on my tongue, but I was keen to talk to Dan and even more eager to talk to my dentist. That’s when I entered Dante’s little known but widely feared circle, wi-fi hell.
I stumbled down to my friend’s apartment and was able to leave a message and number for Dan to call when he got up. While there we talked about my predicament and she suggested her dentist. Not quite ready to make that commitment, I left with the plan to talk first to Dan and reassess. As I left she gave me a tiny book by Ma Devi entitled Let This My Prayer Be… and I spent the afternoon reading another beautiful book on how to pray written by a contemporary woman who by all outward appearances was just like me, an ordinary wife and mother, but who was taken beyond the physical realm through her faith and devotion. The prayers were like poetry, so raw with emotion and real with life experience. She wrote prayers when she was weak of faith, when her young son lay dying, when she doubted her ability to love unconditionally. A sample that I like reads like a love letter.
May I never lose sight of the fact that all my aspiration, my joy, my love, my life are gifts from God. May I claim nothing, for nothing is mine except the aspiration to give- give- give: to all I have and all I am, all I feel and all I know, all I want and all I become! May I learn to see him in the radiance of the flower, in the hue of the dawn, in the beauty of the moon. May I feel his touch in every kind hand-clasp that I receive, may I feel his breath in the rustle of the breeze.
Love and devotion were central in all of the prayers for prayer, like meditation creates a fertile ground for the seeds we try to cultivate, love, compassion, kindness, joy, equanimity. And like Meister Eckhart some eight centuries ago, many of the prayers were about surrendering our worldly attachments, even those most closely held, even our children and our very lives, to a power that is greater than all, to a love that is beyond space and time.
We’re now finishing week two here and I’m far more savvy, able to cross the street without getting hit or causing an accident, able to eat without getting sick, and yes even able to handIe a day or two without my computer crutch. I’ve got my big-girl panties on and I’m ready to swim out there in the deep water without a life vest.
I walk out the door and through the gate and onto the bustling street. No sooner have I turned from the gate when I see a young man, tall and thin in a short-sleeved shirt, the kind with a collar like my father might have worn to work in the 1960’s. He is pushing a bicycle with one arm, the other arm of the shirt is carefully draped toward his chest and neatly held with a safety pin. No prosthetic, no arm. I touch my missing tooth with my tongue, and keep walking.