Street meditation: Trust as a Spiritual Practice

Many Indians ask me why so many foreigners come here to learn mediation and yoga when so many Indians don’t practice. .

Walking down the street in India is a meditation!  The sidewalk here in Pune is an obstacle course. So much so that people don’t even use the sidewalk because you constantly have to be manuvering around trees, practically jumping off huge curbs, tripping over rocks from sidewalk construction abandoned midway, falling into unmarked holes, or getting decapitated by almost invisible cables or wires. One must be aware to even walk down the street or you’ll end up in a catastrophe. You need to be aware of yourself and your surroundings, and that is in the present moment. Sidewalks here are like a good idea gone wrong. The people have put so much time into putting down these stones on the road…and yet what’s the point? Walking next to traffic is almost easier as long as you get out of the way when a loud one comes behind you.

I finally understand the meaning of the term, “street smarts” because crossing the street here in India requires a sixth sense to know when it’s your turn to go. Traffic rules like stop lights, cross walks, the direction of traffic, they are all merely “suggestions” here. It is an act of trust and courage to step out after 5 minutes of attempting to wait for a break between vehicles. If there are other Indians crossing or even other pedestrians, there is power in numbers. But when you have to cross alone,  you step forward in trust. Sometimes one is standing in the middle of the road with traffic whizzing on either side, and you have to trust that they see you. Even if it’s the middle of the night and you are wearing dark colors and no reflector vest and some of the cars don’t have their lights on.

Osho was talking about trust last night in the video we watched. He was talking about how trust is more powerful than love because love comes and goes, ebbs and waves. He told a story about having a cleptomaniac as a roommate in college. The man wasn’t a thief because he didn’t steal valuable things. So whenever Osho couldn’t find something, he would look in the cupboard of his roommate. He would find it, use it, and put it back in his roommates cupboard. He said there was no harm in it, he’s not hurting anybody; he simply enjoys. . One cold day he took Osho’s jacket to class, so Osho took his jacket. Osho ran into his roommate on campus and the roommate said, “you are wearing my jacket.” Osho said, “yes, something has happened to mine. Someone took it.” This is while the roommate is wearing his jacket, but Osho doesn’t point that out. So the roommate says, “yeah, you can’t trust people these days.” Then the roommate says, you are the only person who doesn’t protest when I take your things. Osho says, “What? You enjoy. I just let you be who you are.” Then Osho takes him to a psychotherapist because so many other people are complaining about their things being taken and because their dorm room is getting a bit full. The roommate is at first is reluctant, so Osho says, “Don’t worry, he has nice things.”  Eventually the roommate steals the therapist couch and the therapist says he can’t work with him anymore. The roommate would always admit he had stolen and return the item when asked. He simply had a mental disorder where he liked to steal, and he was lucky enough to have a roommate who accepted him and wanted to help him.

What is trust? How can we have trust in life and the world without waiting until someone is trustworthy or they’ve earned our trust? To live life in trust, maybe then others would respond differently knowing they are trusted…to be themselves, loving and fully present.

Work as Meditation

I am just getting over a head cold. What? In India? Isn’t it supposed to be nice and I am on holiday….It’s a combination of taking in conflict instead of either letting it pass through me or grounding it. That’s what stress can do.

I came to India to learn to be in the eye of the storm. To be peaceful in the midst of chaos. Little did I know at the time I set this intention it is directly related to my experience of work. I used to think that stress came from the outside, from stressful situations. This job is stressful, these people, this situation. But I realize now it is actually from within. A fear response gone wrong by the programming of society to always “get it right.” Compete, compare, get farther.

I’m really learning not take myself so damn seriously. Melding the world of meditation with the world of work. The work as meditation program here at the Osho Meditation Resort has taught me more than anything that I can be playful and the more I bring my full self to every work task, the more abundance there will be. And if it doesn’t end up fruitful or I make a mistake, it’s not a rejection of my full self. I am learning to show up in life, totally. All the time. And not wait for 5pm or until this one thing is finished to be enjoying my existance. Learning to live intensely, but with the delight of ease not tension.

Learning….

…to not take “no” personally.

…to not take “yes” personally, and yet at the same time, know that it can be.

…to communicate without manipulation. I don’t have to compliment, make small talk, express interest, or touch someone in order to ask them to do something–especially if it is my job. This is learning to be okay with having power. To not be intimidated by having power. And when I ask, it’s not a favor I’m asking, it’s a request.

…to be present with myself and what’s happening in my body. Noticing stress as a fluttering in my chest and a choke at my throat, a tension in my jaw or shoulders. And using the breath to come back here now and continue my action.

…to tell people to wait. Discernment in what can wait, and well, everything can wait. Even if someone doesn’t want to wait, it’s good for them…to learn patience.

…that’s it’s all life, not on the clock, off the clock. It just is…existance.

.

..to explore where I make decisions from. I have come a long way, consciously or unconsciously. Making decisions from a place of…Will it make my parents love me more? What will people think of me? What’s the logical decision? What does my heart say? And now, now there is something even deeper happening in my gut. An intuition that is activated when I let go of needing to make the “right” decision.

I decided to stay at the Osho International Meditation Resort for another month. Which means no traveling through India…this time. Even with this, my ego is like, but what about all the pictures and exciting stories people love? Not as exciting going inward. Not as many stories, but I am finding myself in there somewhere. And this relationship is growing, this relationship I have with myself.

I realize how much I have avoided being with myself. I have used many things to avoid this relationship…alcohol, cigarettes, technology, sex, daydreaming, cleaning, other people. And that’s okay to do and use these things, but I also want to show up for myself. Luckily I get another opportunity every moment. We all do.

No such thing as apologies

Politeness isn’t a value here in India. People don’t say ‘please and ‘thank you” unless they are westernized or from Delhi (from my experience). They aren’t concerned with manners. They ask each other directions leaning over in the street when you’re stopped in traffic.

I was learning to make coffee at the cafe as part of my work as meditation. The first cappuccino I made I didn’t use enough coffee. I had to make it again and the customer had to wait. He was Indian and so is Krishna, the woman training me.

When I finally finished the cappuccino and gave it to the customer,  I said, “thank you for your patience.” Both Krisha and the customer laughed.

At first I was confused, why äre they laughing? Then I realized he wasn’t practicing patience. Things just happen as they are and you can like them or not, but there isn’t this idea that someone else should be doing anything faster or that things need to be more perfect or servers need to be more polite. Things just are as they are, imperfect and always changing.

Meditation is a way of being in the world. It seems like a lot of Indians don’t practice as much meditation or yoga. It’s ironic because so many foreigners come here to learn from the masters. But the people here are already connected connected in a different way. Not rushing, not in road rage, not expecting faster service. Things just are what they are. Acceptance is a way, so patience is not needed. This istheir conditioning.

The Banyan tree isa good analogy of the way of people here in India from my experience. Banyans also do not fight or demand  so much of its environment. When the tree trunk comes in contact with a marble wall, for example, the trunk grows around it and doesn’t need to bust it out of its form. And yet, it will slowly, slowly, like water taking the path of least resistance, overcome an entire building by growing around it from above. Persistant and accomodating both. And so I learn the ways getting what I want through present and flexible persistance, one cup at a time.

Whirling Into Myself

Little kids twirl all the time. They are not afraid of loosing themselves. When I was five I was turning circles in the kitchen when I lost balance and fell against the stove. I remember being shocked trying to breathe. The air wasn’t coming in. My mother came over, but what could she do? After a few gasps I recovered. “I couldn’t breath.”

“Oh, you got the wind knocked out of you,” she said. I remember being comforted realizing she knew what I had experienced. I was much more careful…or hesitant…after that in my turning.

In high school dance we learned to spot while turning, focusing on one point ahead, then 180 degrees behind to ensure we wouldn’t get disoriented through multiple turns. It worked and I knew exactly when to finish my turn and go into the next move facing to the crowd. I love turning when I dance–the way my skirt flares out, the washing away of all the energies, the excitement. Senior year at dance camp, one choreography included a jump turn. I landed wrong and sprained my ankle. It brought me back to when I was five, and the loss of control in turning. This time I didn’t lose my breathe; I hurt my body. 

Osho’s Whirling meditation is based on Sufi Whirling. You unfocus your eyes and look out at the blur of everything going by visually. Let go and let the world blur by as a symbol for emotions and experiences. It’s a practice in non-attachment and centering in the self. No interest or disinterest, but uninterest in the external. Instead one focuses inward on the the eye of the storm.

My first few times whirling, I spun so fast that I fell to the ground, mindfully thanks to my meditation practices. When you finish the meditation, either by falling or when the music stops, you roll onto your stomach and feel your center, the hara, just below the bellybutton touching the ground. In just 8 days, I noticed how much more easily I connect with my center while whirling. Whenever I start thinking during this meditation, I immediately get dizzy or nauseous. If I notice something visually and try to look at it each time I go around, again I get dizzy. When I do fall, it is a joy to witness the more experienced whirlers with their big skirts. These 2 small, blonde Russian twins who look the same, but one whirls in chaos, moving her arms; the other with a sense of calmness all about her.

Whirling is an immediate reminder to breathe, let go, and go inward. Remain unattached and watch it all go by. This instant feedback makes it a very conscious meditation by necessity. In sitting meditation sometimes my mind will wander off for 5 minutes before the watcher returns and notices the drama of past or future my mind has run off to. In spinning, you cannot whirl without being centered! It’s beautiful. As I visually see these things go by again and again and do not focus on them, I allow the colors and movement to wash together. So too is the way I want to relate to my emotions. The watcher, watching them, experiencing them, and yet also knowing they are not me. I am not my emotions. I can feel them, express them in healthy ways and not attach to them. To feel instead my center. Deep inside is a joy, a consciousness, connected to existance.

“Listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little silent you will start feeling your way. Be the person you are. Never try to be another, and you will become mature. Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself, whatsoever the cost. Risking all to be oneself, that’s what maturity is all about.”
Osho

When I finish whirling and I bow. I’m so blissed out! Connected deeply with myself, I need not from others, but offer the playfulness of presence.

Here is a beautiful Rumi poem about whirling.

Eddy, my left breast pocket

I am still a girl learning to embrace each moment in life. This has been comming up for me  the last few days here at the Osho Meditation Center.  is one example.

My first day I am putting my lunch tray away. I turn around to look directly into the eyes of this tall, dark, and handsome man. My whole being immediately reacts with high vibrational joy, and I catch my breath. He stops and says, “hi.” I overt my gaze and walk away. “Holy shit, what was that?” I think to myself, and “why did I walk away?… I’m not here to distract myself with boys.”

Over the next couple of days these encounters keep happening. I walk out of meditation and look over into a crowd, and it is him. I walk into a room, and there he is facing me. My energy is instantly drawn to him and he is looking at me too. Sometimes I smile a little, but mostly look away. I walk up to the cyber cafe as he is leaving.

I get so nervous, the guy behind the counter says, “fourteen.”

And I say, “computer number 14?”

“No, I need your card,” he replies. He gives the guy behind the counter his voucher card. I take a deep breathe. Crap that means I’m stuck standing up here with him.

“Hi, I’m Eddy.”

“Hi Eddy. I’m Ursala.”

“Ursala…” he nods, “see you around.”

“Okay.” This is totally in an innocent, girly voice. Shit, where is my confident voice?

I don’t see him the next day and think maybe he has left. The next morning I come to the plaza for whirling. He’s is doing Tai Chi; the class is going long. I can only see his back, but I know it’s him. I start whirling, round and round. I’ve only done this  before, and I spin faster and faster, eventually falling to the ground. I lie on my stomach and watch the whirlers with their huge fanning skirts, joy spread accross their faces.

There is a slight scream from where the Tai Chi class is; someone has fallen. I look over. The fallen person makes a”whoa” saying I’m okay, and I laugh. I look up just as Eddy is laughing too and looking right back at me. He’s gorgeous, especially when he’s laughing. I look away again. I keep thinking, “I should just go talk to him.”  I imagine getting tea with him. I tell myself I haven’t been open to him yet because I’m working through a lot of my stuff right now. I’m tender and insecure. Excuses not to live life fully. Life happens now. Being present to what is happening now, rather than what I’m carrying deep within from the past, or worrying about the future, is the only way to really find joy.

Two days ago for the kundalini meditation, I put my mat down and then notice it happens to be about 15 feet away from Eddy. I look at him, he looks at me. We close our eyes and dance in meditation. I feel so much joy dancing focused on my hara, and I feel him, a vibrating pulse to my right.

After the meditation I walk into the cafe, my first look inside is directly into his eyes. He’s checking out and gives me a nod. I look away. Walking out to sit, I see a friend I know smiling at me, I almost go over to join, but notice Eddy is there. Shit, I am so intimidated joining a group! I do much better approaching a single other person because there is less awkward silence, and I have more control over the conversation.

We have one more meditation after tea, the Evening Meeting. This time he puts his mat close to mine, even in the sea of white robes, I notice him.  The last meditation ends. I stretch and roll up my mat. I turn and he is walking next to me.

“How are you?”

“Energized.” I answer, “How are you?”

“Good. Are you going to the dance tonight?”

“I don’t know I’m often tired later at night. You?”

“Yes, since it is my last night.”

“Of course. You have to celebrate,” I answer.

He gets his shoes and looks around as if to see what I would do. I grab my shoes and step off to the side, head down to put them on. So he moves on with the crowd out the door.

I don’t go to the dance. I get a new hotel room and think to myself, “I came here to work on myself, not for boys.” Excuses. I resolve to practice joining groups of people when there is less at stake. Just to see what happens.

~

Each Evening Meeting a video of Osho talking is played. Last night Osho was explaining a kern, used in monasteries to tire the mind.  Basically a kern is a riddle that is unsolvable, like “what did you look like before your parents were born?” He explains that if a disciple doesn’t tire one’s mind in 3 years, it is because one is holding energy back. One is not giving the entire energy to the kern, and so the mind goes on and on, thinking some on the kern as well as other thoughts. The mind does not get tired, it goes MAD over time. Osho raises his eyebrows at the word “mad” and tells an exemplary story.

A man is going for the train. The ticket man asks him for his ticket. The man says, “let me search for it.” He searches his pockets: his pants pockets, back pockets, inside jacket pockets, outside pockets, all but his left breast pocket. “I cannot find it.”

The ticket man says, “I see you have searched everywhere. Everywhere except your left breast pocket. Why not look there? It is likely there!”

“I know it is likely there, and that is why I cannot look there. It is my last hope! And if it isn’t there, I will go mad. I will have no idea where it is, and then what shall I do,” the traveler answers. And he goes on searching through his luggage and on to the next luggage.

train

The ticket man stops him. “Wait! You are mad! You have not even checked your left breast pocket and here you searching through other people’s luggage. What a crazy man! You cannot keep searching there.”

~

I laughed and cried at this story. I’m not the only one! When we hold back energy, it is because it is our hope…that we save some for later. That we will be safe. That we will need it later. The need to know. Because we like the search more than getting there. For what will we do once we are there? There are plenty of handsome, attractive, international men here at the meditation center. And I am enjoying connecting with them. But they are not Eddy. I do not remember the last time I met an Eddy where my being consistently responded so strongly. Maybe it’s the hope I cling too…that the search for love is so much easier than the work of a relationship. Maybe my ego is so scared of the unknown or my awkwardness. Why am able to talk to lots of other attractive men and be myself, but not the one I actually like? This is it! For so long I have thought myself a perfectionist. Men express affection for me, and I reject them. Why? Because I’m choosing to spend time with ones I’m not actually that into. They are safe. It is already known and I’m not invested. Maybe I turn away from what I want because of the fear of rejection if it’s something I truly want badly. HOW TO WELCOME FEAR AND THEUNKNOWN.

Life is insecurity. Each moment is a move into more and more insecurity. It is a gamble. One never knows what is going to happen. And it is beautiful that one never knows. If it was predictable, life would not be worth living. If everything was as you would like it to be, and everything was certain, you would not be a man at all, you would be a machine. Only for machines is everything secure and certain.” ~Osho

I face my desire like I would give a steak to a dog. Teaching it to be well trained, desire indulged only with control. Desire waiting and drooling until I give it the okay. Lest I lose myself. They say the true self has no desire; it just is. Let us hope that I give the okay in self love before the steak is rotten.

In Love Vicariously Through You

“He brought in a female DJ from India, so I had to go.” Lisa tells me about how much fun she had at the Bollywood party in Seattle the night before. It all comes rushing back–the colors, the smells, the beauty, the moves that not only look beautiful but feel beautiful. I love the feeling that life is a musical. Heart felt voices and empowering moves. I’ve been avoiding thinking about my love affair for months. I did the same thing when I first got back from India, avoided anything about it. I couldn’t even watch Eat, Pray, Love all the way through because I was crying so hard I couldn’t hear what Julia Roberts was saying.

My love affair with India is similar to most love affairs when someone has a hard time letting go. I try to remind myself how lonely I was there. I was alone on my birthday…but my mom called, I got a text from a new friend in Varkala and I was actually invited back to the farm in Palakkad. I could have gone back, but I wanted to move forward. I didn’t have my full spectrum of will. I couldn’t stay out late, there was nowhere to dance except in super tourist places…oh, and that one time I ended up at a “Lady’s Dancing club” in Bangalore. I realized too late that it was basically the equivalent to a strip club here. They came to see women move and to make eye contact with them perhaps, but not to see their skin. That would be too much to be able to control oneself. I couldn’t wear what I wanted, but I can’t do that here either considering I don’t want to wear much at all!

It took me almost 2 months to unpack my bag when I got back in March. I can understand why my Indian friend called me every day while I was there. If that were my home I would want to be connected to it as much as possible too. Even if it meant giving someone too much attention just to be nearer to it. As one often does in love, makes it a priority just to be nearer to the one you love. I just wish I would have realized sooner not take it so personally. But I didn’t notice because I too was falling for this one. I understand now, how one can fall in love with India through another person. I went to a new dentist today. When I first went back and he introduced himself while he was working on another patient. A bit odd, I thought.

He came over and said, “So Ursala, huh.”
I replied yes.
“The closest we have is Utpala in Indian.” I looked it up. It means full of lotuses.
“Indian? You mean Hindi?”
He takes off his mask and says, “Now how do you know how to say that word so well, Hindi?”
“I don’t speak it, but I was in India so I know there are many languages there. I assume when you said Indian you mean Hindi.”
We continue on like this as best I can considering one’s mouth is pretty full at the dentist. We get into that he is from Punjab, we talk about the border, about turbans, he’s a Sikh, I never made it to the Golden Temple or the Taj Mahal. The Prime Minister of India is a Sikh, and he constantly has a frog in his throat. I tell him I do too, and I get rid of it by singing. He shows me an old picture where he’s wearing his turban. “Is this from dental school?” “Yes, how did you know?”
“You look very studious.”
“I don’t look like that now?”
“Now you look professional.”
We part on a discussion of netty pots, and I fall in love again. With India.

I came back for love. I felt my love was here in Portland and I needed to come find it. I think I got confused by my friend living out his love affair with India through me. India and I were just getting to know each other. I remember my sister saying, “We want you to come home. Or at least I want you to come home. I don’t have any other family close by as the wedding gets closer.” The wedding was really depressing for me. I realized my love for my friend was actually just because Indians are such supportive people. To their family, their friends. I was in love with having someone around who could reassure me, empathize, look at the bright side, stay positive and think big. It was like cheating my hero’s journey. Maybe that’s why I always cry whenever I REALLY think about India. I didn’t take the opportunity to be my own hero, my own love when I was there.

I have come back to Portland, and I have found a love. He provides me many things, but not inspiring reassurance. “I love you because being like you would make me a better person.”

Someday I’d like to say to that to myself. And mean it.

3 trips to NoPo

NoPo is uniquely not east or west but straight up, a long slow hill on my bike. Luckily there are a lot of positive bicyclists who have painted Nintendo mushrooms, banana peels and stars along the way to re-energize the sweaty bodied SE adventurers as if they are in a Mario cart game. Large gardens every few blocks, art everywhere, community living and vegan feastings in tiny coffeeshops. A beautifully inviting and freeing subculture of Portland. People talk to each other here instead of being busy looking cool.

First visit, to In Other Words bookstore, featured in Portlandia. Event: Ovulation Awareness zine reading workshop. “Let’s go around and introduce ourselves with our names, the pronouns we go by, and our favorite sex education moment.” There was no one named Jessica or Brittany…but instead Rosemary and Cedar. This seems appropriate. I was able to hold it together for the first introduction, “I’m Rayna and I go by she and her, and my most memorable moment was in sex ed when the teacher told us ovulation and menstration were the same thing. I was really confused by that.” The second introduction was more challenging for me to keep it together with, “Hi, I’m Sam and I use the pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’ as well as ‘they’ and ‘them’.” This person has obviously answered this question several times since it was so clearly and quickly stated.

I felt the -ia of my Portland experience really coming to fruition. The same way I felt myself fit into a stereotype when I heard a comedian talking about trying to date Northwest girls…they always bike, they are vegetarian and they love costumes. But you can never tell what the costume is, so you have to ask, and they have some abstract concept about being a new age unicorn/tiger on too much coffee. ‘Can’t you see that in the fabric I used for my horn?’ It’s funny how unique we can feel unaware of the culture creating us. But this night, I felt that cultural influence. And I wanted to laugh, “you can call me they too!” But that would be rude.

So when it came to my introduction, I said, “Hi, I’m Ursala and I go by she and stuff. And I recently learned that I like spankings.” I never would have signed up to get together with a bunch of strangers to talk about love, sex and relationships, but when the night ended up with a cuddle puddle and new friends, I can’t complain. Although, let’s be honest, I more watched the cuddle puddle and tried not to stiffen when someone rested their arm on my knee. Someone else made an example of asking for consent before touching by grabbing right calf, and saying this isn’t consent…”I’m okay, I’m okay,” I repeated in my head. Deep breathe. My friend went in for the hold from behind first thing. I tried to relax, but she felt me tense up and remembered outloud, “oh, that’s right. I should ask. I forget you aren’t comfortable with these things.”

It’s not that I don’t want to be. Our culture approaches intimacy as something that needs to be preserved where many of the people I’ve been meeting here see it as abundant.

How are we supposed to know how to be intimate with a partner if we never practice?

***
Second visit to NoPo this week

On the back of a scooter. It costs $3 to fill up in gas. I can still wear a dress, but I need to put on pants over it because it’s cold. I wear a heavy helmet and clear glasses and gloves. My boyfriend and I don’t know the way, but we figure it out. The dance is 3G-good, giving and game. There is bed on the alter with furs and blankets and fun cozy things. Half way through the dance we are invited to be good to one another, to be giving to one another and to bring game to each other…really push ourselves. I danced with 5 people that night. My goal is usually to dance with one new person. One dance is with someone I’m attracted to. He’s not my boyfriend. What’s the appropriate way to dance with this person? We are playful and distant. My boyfriend can feel it, and comes to dance with me right after. After the dancing is over he’s on the bed with my neighbor talking. My first reaction is discomfort, fear, and ‘I should give them space’. My default is to shut down, put on my shoes and wait outside. This is silly. I decide to join them. In my navigation of not reacting, but trying to respond, I akwardly jump on the bed and start rubbing fur on them, commenting on how nice this bed is. One can quietly enter a conversation, change the subject or jump in. I jumped between all 3 and the moment ended.

Why is it that when other people are intimate, my default is that this is a limited commodity and if they are getting it, I’m not? As if there isn’t enough. As if we are not all free to love one another, nurture one another and support healing through touch and care.

“I spend so much of my time with you? Does that not show you that you are special to me? And why do you need to be shown? Don’t you see and feel and know that you are special every day?”

Where did this idea come from that I’m not special? Or why must I need reassurance from others that I am special? What is a need anyway? And how many of them are just wants and actually related to control?

***

3rd trip to NoPo. The trip is getting a little old. I live so far away, and without a car it’s quite an investment of time. Helping to build a blog supporting a sex positive community. Funny thing to be working for considering I don’t even know what I think about all this since I get so uncomfortable around all these touchy, feely people.

WordPress skills, helping people figure out what they want, new faces…and it just feels right. Even if it is for little money and a trade to go to some events. It helps to give me structure, affirm my skills and capabilities to find answers.

I’m no expert. And I don’t need to be.

And if we have differences, it doesn’t mean I need to run away, it means we need to find a way, until we can’t anymore.