Monday, May 24, 2010

Atlanta part 1

Dear friends,

There's so much I want to tell you about, but I don't know how. I don't know if I can. There are experiences so complex, and so intense, that I can barely recall them clearly, much less commit them to 'paper.' But I'm trying.

Friday night, April 16th, I yelled at Ma. This was in Atlanta, of all places, at her daughter's ashram, with 180 people in the room. I was called on to ask a question, and in the exchange that followed, I lost myself. I was hurt, and I wanted help, and I thought Ma was denying me. I felt unheard, so I spoke louder and more forcefully than people should ever speak to the Guru. I tried to make her understand, she who already understands more than anyone.

At some point soon I'll tell you what I was yelling about, and why, but it's a distraction to this thread of the story. This is a story of how I messed up, and how Ma helped me, and I messed up by thinking that Ma was wrong, and I was right, and yelling could change her mind. You don't yell at the Guru, the Goddess, the Mother. You don't ever speak without perfect respect. I messed up by choosing not to control myself.

Ma put a stop to it lickety split. She shouted me down, the way mothers and Goddesses can. She made it abundantly clear that I was not right. She asked me how I'd feel if someone yelled at my father this way, and I was speechless. He would help, I thought but didn't say, he wouldn't rebuke. But my father is not a Guru. So I stood there speechless, and shocked at my own behavior, and hurt. Still angry, already ashamed, and utterly unsure what to do.

Ma being Ma, she knew what to do. And she did help. She called me up to the front of the room, and I came, walking carefully in the small spaces between lotus-posed devotees. I knelt at Ma's feet and wept silently, while she told me again how disrespectful, how rightly forbidden it was to do as I'd done. She pointed to the scores of people in the room, she pointed to her daughter, the swami of this ashram, and she told me how much I had hurt all of them, as well as herself. She told me to turn around, and face the community, and apologize for yelling at their Guru.

(It's a good thing I was crying, too. I hadn't cried all week, and I was worried I might break my weekly regimen.)

While I was gathering my words, Swami Jaya Devi, Ma's daughter, had me turn back to Ma to apologize to her first. I did, and Ma took me into her arms and hugged me. She let my tears fall on her shoulder. She told me she loved me. Then she kicked me out of the room.

In the hallway, I sat with Ma's two lieutenants (also the Tae Kwon Do instructors) Acharyas Rudra Das and Durga Das. These men have lived on the Ashram since they were kids. They're disciplined, stern, and completely devoted to Ma. I sat on the floor with them, still crying, still speechless, while they lectured me about humility and respect. I knew they were right, and I knew I was wrong, but the raw, torn edges of my heart and the sheer intensity of Ma's presence made it hard to do anything with that knowledge. I listened and nodded and agreed, and continued to weep. They asked me questions I couldn't answer honestly, and cut me off with the responses they had wanted. I didn't know what they wanted from me, and I couldn't see past how lost and hurt and confused I was. 

I felt totally denied. I couldn't get my attention away from my pain, and I couldn't get their attention to it. I yelled for a reason, for good reasons, I thought. Even though I was wrong, I still wanted some sympathy and got none. 

I'm not trying to say I was right - I wasn't. I'm not trying to say I couldn't possibly have been true to my pain without yelling at Ma - I could have. But at that time, I didn't see it. The whole thing was childish. I was in a totally immature moment. I felt ten years old, at best, the whole time they were talking to me. I had yelled like a child, I was weeping like a child, and these two were telling me to stand up and show respect like a man. I had no idea how to do that. So I cried and nodded and struggled to listen. On some level, the in-charge level, I must have thought that if I was just pathetic enough they'd be nice to me. I'm only seeing now how much affection went into their sitting with me at all, instead of kicking me to the curb.

Finally, just before they had to go, they each gave me a hug and I was able to act like a human being again.

Ma and her Acharyas had each given me an instruction, and I followed them in the wrong order. Ma had told me that, instead of yelling at her, I should be doing what she had done and quietly beg God for help. Rudra Das and Durga Das had told me I should write her a letter that very night to apologize. I wrote the letter first, and I wrote it all wrong. It was an attempt to appease her by parroting back key words from the Acharyas' lecture, instead of offering my neck to her sword. It was the kind of letter that looks like an apology, but really isn't one.

After that I started to pray. Please, God, bring me close to you. Help me love you. Help me feel your love. Take me out of this pain. I'm so sorry, God. I'm so sorry for what I did wrong. Please help me. Please help me see you. Help me be forgiven. It's fair to observe that this was still prayer for my own peace. I know I prayed to be forgiven, but I'm not sure if I prayed to make it right. I asked for help, but not for a chance to help Ma.

I'm a thoroughly imperfect individual.

Praying this way helped to soothe the pain at the bottom of all this, but didn't really resolve it. and my shame at what I had done, by and large, was unaffected.

On my way to sleep that night, I read the very last passage in my prayerbook, and that started to get us somewhere. I'll leave you with that, for now: 

Master of the Universe,
I hereby forgive whoever has hurt me,
And whoever has done me any wrong;
Whether it was deliberately or by accident,
Whether it was done by word or by deed,
In this incarnation, or in previous ones.
May no one be punished on my account.

May it be your will, O Lord, my God,
God of my parents,
That I sin no more,
That I do not revert to my old ways,
That I do not anger you any more by my actions.
May I not do that which is evil in your sight.

Wipe away the sins that I have committed
With your great compassion,
But not through sickness or suffering.

May these words of my mouth,
And the prayers that are in my heart,
Be acceptable before You,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

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