I have been wondering for a while why my spiritual practice works the way it does, and why such a diverse set of practices resonate with me. I live in a jumble of meditation, kirtan, and goddess spirituality mixed with ordinary witchcraft. I accept that it is deeply personal and unique. I would like to take some time to ask why and why and why. I'd like to open the windows and air out my mind.
Diane Sylvan, who wrote The Circle Within
, has the gift of asking the right questions, the kind that we each answer according to our own heart. I am grateful to spend the next few weeks as her student, to be a spiritual nomad.
This week finds me tracing my spiritual history, which I will not share in depth. You know about my long lineage of Quakers, the comfort of silence, my oft interrupted journey as a witch and priestess. You know that I meditate and practice yoga--not just hatha but pranayama, bhakti and seva. You know I also walk lightly on the Zen path--again for the silence and meditation.
"Clear your altar," she said. "Which ones?" I whimpered. The entire house is an altar. OK, I'll start in the place where I meditate.
- Photograph of Swami Kripalu--teacher, guru. I wish I had known him personally, but his teachings live on at the Kripalu Center. I go there each spring to restore my balance. I keep his picture to remember why.
- Paper daisy in a vase. Flowers on my altar. I admit that I am not home enough to keep fresh flowers, but its the thought that counts. A stranger gave me the flower. Random kindness is so rare in this cold and greedy city, that I cherish the memory of this small gift.
- Image of Kuan Yin--Goddess, Bodisattva. This is Her altar.
- Bowl of water--offering. Perhaps it evaporates, perhaps Indigo kitten drinks the water--I offer and it is taken.
- Incense--offering. This one transforms into Her gift to me, wisps of smoke painting patterns that are ever changing
- Candle--offering. Giving and receiving Light.
- The red box. A riser for the altar, and another offering. Painting the box was an act of ritual. So many thin washes of reds and browns give depth and translucence to the paint.
- Metta prayer beads, four full moons, one for each line of the prayer...may you be happy...may you be healthy...may you be safe...may you know peace.
- Silk altar cloth, artfully woven Japanese brocade. Maybe the images aren't quite right for my altar, but it is a touch of home for Kuan Yin.
I have set these aside for now. Some in a box, some tucked around the room, in the places they came from. A few things remain...
- The altar itself. I remember my mother drinking tea here, looking out the window. I remember Amber cat curled up asleep. Family, all gone now. Memories remain.
- Beyond the windows, the sky, with the bell tower standing as a pointer to NOW.
- My cushions on the floor. Zafu and zabuton.
What is it like to meditate here? I chose to breathe to the mantra So Hum, meaning I am That. The mind wanders. So Hum transforms to Sat Nam and back again. Quiet bliss and longing. I feel slightly disconnected. The altar seems so huge and empty. I can see Quan Yin, right where She should be. I am not alone.