Sunday, June 6, 2010

Atlanta part 2

The next day at the event was very difficult. I had never made an apology to the group, and here I was surrounded by people I'd harmed. We were trying to do spiritual work, and I was totally uncomfortable.

Some folks were immediately forgiving. They saw me lash out from a place of pain, and even on Friday night some people hugged me, told me they knew where I was coming from, and that it would be okay. A few people even thanked me for the honesty, or for provoking the generosity of Ma's response. One woman told me she'd been afraid to speak up until she saw my bad example, but then asked an important question and gotten a beautiful answer.

On the other hand, a friend told me that what I'd done was dramatic and disrespectful, and not to talk to her until I'd fixed myself.

Most people went about their own process, of course, and said nothing to me, but I was not an equal participant. In my own mind, in the mind I saw in strangers, I was that awful man who'd yelled at Ma.

I kept thinking of that prayer, and the line "May it be your will... that I do not revert to my old ways." The prayer helped, but I was stuck thinking about my old ways.

Come Sunday, a two events showed me out of my shame hole. In a small group conversation, I asked a question about the difference between intuitive action-without-thought and angry reaction-without-thought and the answer - intuition feels good while you're doing it - took us into a conversation about choice. Someone there pointed out that domestic abusers used to claim "I had no choice, Judge, I was angry," as though that absolved them of responsibility. She told me I'm still making a choice, even in deep pain, about how I'm going to act. This was a hard pill to swallow - Ma provoked me! She made me do it! - but a lot harder to spit up again. Ma provoked me into pain, and I chose to hide from that pain in anger. Instead of trying to 'fix' myself, still treating myself as an object that reacts without freedom, it's much healthier to ask how not to repeat a terrible choice. I curled up the shame hole into a little shame ball and felt it slip down from my heart and out my belly button. Great success.

Big help number two, just before Ma arrived, Acharya Durga Das told me "When Ma gets here, sit down, shut up, and for God's sake don't raise your hand. Just be grateful you're in the presence of the Mother." And once Ma came, the wisdom of this advice was astonishing. One of my questions since Friday night - one that was inhibiting real growth, regret, and redemption - had been "How can I show Ma how sorry and better I am?" The Acharya's instructions meant that I couldn't tell Ma anything. It gave me a lot more room to receive. I got to be grateful, and even grateful for my own gratitude, and not pretend that if I piled enough shame in my jowls, Ma would just forgive me to make me feel better. Once I was committed to shutting up, I could finally hear what she had to say.

And what she had to say was remarkable. She taught us about unlocking intuition in the body, and how much of intuition lies in loving and accepting yourself, and that the search for God is truly the search for oneself in God. And then she took us into meditation, and maybe did the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

She told us, at some point, to give her one wound. To find one place we were hurting and let her cut that pain right out of us. I held out the wound of my sorrow, and she said she took it, and it was gone.

She said to give her one more wound, and I held out the grief that made me shout at her Friday night, then it was gone.

She said to give her all of our wounds, and I stopped short. All? I thought. All? I couldn't do that.

I could still feel the power in the room, but I was stumped by it. I heard crying around me, then in front of me, and I opened my eyes. Ma kept talking, said she was cutting out all of our pain, our grief, and our sorrow. I saw a woman weeping - a woman who had seemed fun, sassy, and totally self-possessed all weekend - sobbing with total abandon. And I got it, and I let go, and I gave Ma my pain.

My father talks about the difference between injury pain and healing pain. An broken arm is one, a set and cast arm is the other. I was filled, for what felt like a very long time, with a breathtaking healing pain. Everything I carry but don't need was escaping, leaving the strangest hollow spaces behind. I felt Ma's sword cut out these old aches and inner blockages, and when she told us to I filled the empty spaces with Joy. I felt the whole room get brighter and lighter as everyone let go of their tragic histories. Weeping myself, I let while light flood into the old domains of hurt and anger. Places in my body (it was all very corporeal) that I hadn't really felt at home in (does that make any sense?) suddenly felt open and bright.

I felt totally forgiven.

I looked at Ma and saw with awe and wonder the Goddess able to heal us all this way. Looking around the room, it was clear that everyone else was experiencing the same purifying, eviscerating love. How absurd, how insane, it had been to think I could have ever gained anything by yelling at her!

I sat on this for a moment, then fell back into gratitude, weeping, relief. The frustration of my body and appetite, the pain of loneliness, the fear of judgment, the conspicuous absence of God, were all gone from my experience. Love and light, love and light, everywhere I looked.

I slipped down from this high about six or eight hours later, but had the most glorious afternoon in the mean time. Ma told us we would take back most of our pain, betrayed by years of habit, but we could never take it all back. I've found this to be true. Just having seen these wounds replaced with Joy has undermined their potency when they reassert themselves. When I think of it, which isn't often enough, I can put myself back in that room and feel her sword again.

I spent an hour that afternoon, after Ma left, just walking around hugging people and telling them how much I appreciated their contributions to the weekend. Everyone in the room was now my companion on this wonderful voyage. I felt no shame over my own role, and nothing but affection and awe for the souls around me. One woman had broken down crying, during Q&A with Ma after that pain-taking meditation, and I wanted to tell her how I valued her expression of Truth. I walked up and lost my words, saying  "I... I just love you!" instead. She hugged me and said "I just love you, too!" and a third party declared both of us drunk. And she was right, of course, this third-party pooper. We were all wandering about in a love-drunk haze. I went home with some locals to cook them dinner and offer massages, and all of it was wonderful.

I wrote Ma another letter that night, trying to balance out my awful non-apology apology. I still felt forgiven, though, and liberated from shame. There was nothing to say about Friday night at that point. It didn't matter anymore. "Thank you, Ma. I love you so much." pretty much covered everything I needed to say.

But come on. That's getting off way too easy, right? I get to throw a tantrum, and Ma just makes the whole thing go away? No way. That's total bullshit.

I drove back to Florida on Monday, feeling great the whole way down. But when pulled into the land, got out of my car, and was actually there again, it suddenly felt different. I had acted in pain, and my pain was gone, but the karma of my action still had to be dealt with. This story, clearly, was not done yet.

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