Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Giving thanks 

Up there with learning to program my VCR so I could tape Wimbledon in ’98, or figuring out how to post photos online two years ago, or finally purchasing, schlepping home up four flights of stairs and actually installing an air-conditioner all by myself last year: asked and was talked through how to include links on my blog. So bear with me while I get it out of my system.

Day five of five at the ashram. So full of images, moments, smiles. Giving thanks for the spring-like weather we’ve been blessed with. The quiet and space to just be. The teachings that emanate from everywhere when I pause to listen and learn. Warm kind witty wise friends to spend time with.

Arrived on a stormy rainy Thanksgiving afternoon to the recently-revamped (in warm yellow walls and rustic lamps, adorned with squash and corn and fall flowers and leaves) with all my ashram family spread out interspersed with the Jivamuktas here for a re-treat with Sharon and David.

Used to say it’s all about the sides, back in the day when I had to restrict myself to them and ignore the various turkey carcass centerpieces. That was before I had the joy of trying sei[tan]turkey! This was my first Thanksgiving sans the dead bird, and I hadn’t realized how heavily the whole “turkey-day” concept weighed on me, until I was unshackled by its restraints. I love my NY family so much, folks I’ve known and loved since I was a baby or twenty-two year old, but was so thrilled to be at the ashram, this year.

I’d never celebrated the holiday until I moved to NYC in ’96. That first one was so joy-filled! My hosts were subjected to a rambling pre-dinner speech of all the things I felt so grateful for. What a fabulous concept, I thought. A day dedicated to gratitude! No matter what, I thought, we all have so much to be grateful for. What a joy it was, to be here for the “introductions” that Brahmananda Saraswati, the ashram’s father, introduced. Everyone to share their name, where they came from, and one thing they are grateful for that day. Nice. No-one held hands, but a few teared up, many made us laugh, some made us think. Me? I am so very-very grateful for community. It’s what keeps me here, keeps me happy.

I used to fear winter, resist it. Resent it. Mourn the blazing leaves as they dropped and rotted into the damp earth. On our walk through the woods yesterday I realized you can see more when the trees are stripped down. You can see what their shapes are really like, what they’ve weathered, survived, thrived through. So many of them, truly magnificent. Some of them hollow in the center, a shell of bark over You can also see more between the bare branches, stars and patches of sky and dappled sunlight previously obscured by the ferocious verdure of summer’s manic enthusiasm. Kinda like with people, sometimes.

Stuff I did this weekend, even though- maybe, especially because- they were kinda scary to me:

Hoola-hooping and throwing the hoop around- even if it did land on my face in the end, and we had to go on a midnight ice-seeking expedition.

Being completely me as I am in that moment- without adjusting and adapting to what-I-think-shoulds.

Learning the Indian scales- and singing the high notes loudly and bravely, drwoning out the demand that it sound right every time (the sun set behind the trees as we sat around the harmonium in a gazebo and Pebbles the cat supervised. Photos coming, next week).

Going for a walk in the woods, for the first time since I’ve been coming here- actually laced up my “hiking” boots for the first time since Utah in ’00.

Participating in a writing exercise, brainstormed, wrote poetry- and then shared most of it.

Playing the cymbals I bought at a roadside temple in Mysore two years ago for the first time- and being thanked for playing well by one of the kirtan wallahs.

Admitting to myself that what I do [say, think] matters more than I think it does. Like minimizing use of plastic and animal products and not saying something if it’s not positive and sharing the love I have inside for all. Fearlessly. Wildly. Because we’ve all gotten a little domesticated, have we not? Because it’s ok to walk the path a little differently, to wander off the trail and seek new (although sometimes parallel) directions.

And, maybe, if I don’t take up the whole trail because I need room to grow and move in, move to the side a bit, make some space, others will catch up and walk beside me for a while. Joined with others, you have more eyes to see the hawk landing on a birch overhead and the rainbow-mushrooms underfoot, more ears to hear the jay sing its song and the soft rustling of a squillion tiny bugs landing on dry leaves, more voices to join in exuberant bhajan and glee-filled laughter.

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