January 1, 2013
The End of Maya.
“A mans character is not to be found in moments of great joy, but in moments of great strife.” Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
On December 21, 2012, I had the chance to experience the end of the Mayan Calendar in the origin, the Yucatan of Maya Mexico. It was no "coincidence". This synchratic trek had been planned for quite some time. I had always felt some deep innate need to resolve something that had to do with the idea of maya or the mayan calendar. There was some cycle within me that needed completion. It was a quiet celebration of souls there that felt the same way. Many of us meditated to see the first rays of the sun appear after a long early morning meditation. Many of us held hands and wept. I could truly feel something shift on that day on a scale I still do not understand fully even after having studied the mayan prophecies and their need to overcome time for so long. The Sanskrit word “maya” can be found in many cultures including numerous ones in southeast asia and Mexico. One translation I have truly come to appreciate for the for maya is the word “mirage”. In honoring etymology, the word comes from the roots “ma”, and have relations to “meter”, “measure”, “material’, “matter” and the sanskrit word “mantra” (the anecdote). The translation is “time”, “illusion”, “curtain”, “veil”. The Mayans knew that time did not exist, yet they became fascinated with trying to figure it out, along with times cycles within cycles, or fractals, and reading the exquisite stars that shine more clearly there than any other place I have seen on the planet.
To remember the most direct translation, time, can assist us in understanding the nature of maya and it’s purpose. The nature of it isn’t bad, as it is often mistaken to be, but it is meant to confuse, trick, and get us to go deeper. We are not meant to be ruled by these things, nor by time. It is a real life “magic” show (yet another word related to maya). Until we understand the nature of maya it can really lead us to feel susceptible or tricked in a very deeply unconscious way, like being pulled on strings. It can also lead us into complacency, forgetfulness, more and more suffering. Even with very good intentions there can be a sense of emptiness of things we thought so real and full yet were simulated, as they lack the true fulfillment we initially desired. Even our soul has desires. Our soul wants to have a very deep and meaningful experience. The further we get from being a soul, we may even continue to cloak and fool ourselves, tricking ourselves with more masterminded tricks.
The word “maya” and it’s concepts seemed to follow me around a great deal this year especially, and more than any other year. Perhaps you felt the same way? Many unplanned surprises, tricks, confusions, loss, changes, deaths and pains along with some of the most delightful surprises and new turns unimagined. It was the year of the great purge and fresh ideas and experiences for me all at once, and having asked around... for many. The word followed me around so much that I even began to look for it. Many places on our yoga retreat to Thailand had the name Maya in it. I stayed in a hotel called Maya after a long layover of a flight that did not exist. I also went to “Mayapur” in India just recently. They say this is the place of the origin of “kirtan” (call and response repetition of repeating the holy names of God in mantra) from a great saint and avatar “Shri Chaitanya” (the incarnation of Krishna in the mood of Radha or longing). This religious village on the Ganga River is translated as the “land of maya”. In this strong mayan year even just yesterday, in my favorite piercing place called “Nomad” in Portland OR, the young girl that helped me was named “Maya” and she was born in the land of Maya in Chitzen Itza, the birthplace of Quetzalquoatal. “Of course!” I thought...lets top this year off with yet one more mayan sign...she had sketched a large phoenix rising up out of the ashes (Quetzalquotal is often compared to the Phoenix or to our own kundalini rising from forgetfulness). “That is what this time period and era is all about for us all” I told her. “Of course “Maya” drew this, just so I would remember, if ever I forget, which is maya’s nature. Rise up. The time is now. You can not be a victim any longer to the disillusionments. Offer it all up.
If you were confused, unsettled and felt like you had no idea of what in the world was going on or might happen next, you were closer to maya’s nature than ever before. Congratulations! Until we are close to the nature and purpose of maya, we will never overcome our own personal struggles that keep us totally in the dark yet thinking we’ve got it all understood. Have you ever considered that even the things you most believe in may not be real? Shaky territory. It can be quite unnerving. If you became even more uncertain this year, good! You are close to the curtain going up of the great cosmic opera. You are no longer in the audience being told how everything is and free of the involvement of co-creating your life. You are now deeply involved. You’ve got your hand on the rope just near the stage, ready to see what is behind it, and recognizing the essence of what holds you back from the most Divine relationship of all. I too will agree this can be quite frightening as one approaches such naked stark truths, yet I don’t believe that we do not want fear at all, some of it creates a quality of humility that keeps us connected to the Creator. I do believe though that we must know where fear comes from. It is maya.
Here is a portion of a Hopi verse that is one of my favorites. Many Hopi’s believe they are of the same tribe as the Mayan’s (and the Mayan’s believe they came from India and the stars)...“It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting in your heart's longing. It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.I want to know if you can sit in pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.”
What is real? Which turn do I make? Do I live in a circus? Once we fully embody the fact that we do not really “know” anything for certain, or whether we are truly right, it can actually bring less distress and anxiety. You may actually be closer to the Source. It is the idea that when you “loose”, you also loose the cloaks, the isolations, the exploitations and the tricks, so, did you really loose, and if so, what exactly? I had the incredibly Divinely orchestrated blessing of meeting Radhanath Swami Maharaj this year in Mayapur, India. It was a very “unplanned” event on my part and something thousands of devotees would wish for. In fact, I was there amongst 5,000 Indian pilgrims there to see him. It was immense and surreal for me. Even this life altering blessing assisted me to recognize maya, our “plans” and how things really work...where the orchestration is truly coming from. I would have never thought of this, and in fact, I clearly didn’t. “How did I get here exactly?” I thought. I did not even know who he was until just months before as a delightfully new & unplanned friend handed me his book before I went to France to lead a retreat, and the experience has forever shifted my life. I see in a much deeper level the urgent innate need to develop my relationship with the Divine and remember that all things come from the Creator’s Master plan, not “mine” (yet another word associated with maya or our personal disillusionments based on our choices, called “mayi” in Sanskrit.) Oh those I, me, mines can really do a number on us.
A quote from Radhanath Swami that I appreciate, in one of his many nightly speeches while the jackals howled behind him deep in the mysterious (another word for maya) sunset’s of Mayapur "Do not plan to achieve happiness and avoid distress. You will not be successful. Radhanath Swami...“ I had come to India struggling and feeling that so many small irritant seeds had developed into serious weeds, so out of my control, and then their dissolve on a personal apocalyptic scale. It was such an amplified degree, this true personal uncovering and revolution, one upon another. I wasn’t sure why I had to experience some of the hardships, one right after another. I also experienced so many unplanned new ideas and blessings, some of the most precious ones of my life that it was just confusing me as it was rather difficult to absorb their substance completely and get fully in the now. I hope these words, if anything, help anyone reading this if it sounds familiar in anyway. Appreciation is so profoundly important as it assists in directing our future.
I could feel though that I was getting closer in my understanding of maya in the 2012 storms and strifes, that these very experiences were the studies I had culminated throughout the years. I began to realize to a greater embodiment, in every cell, that as long we are in the land of maya, or the material, there will always be strife, hardship, misunderstanding,change and loss, and in trying to always escape it I was literally being chased by it, feeling threatened by it all the “time”, somewhere deep within. We can't blame anyone. The nature of this forest like material world is individual egos clash and for no reason, even without ill motives and prejudices there will be misunderstandings. When hardship comes and winter blows it is our truest test to never retaliate, give up, or feel condemned. Radhanath Swami. We are all now inhaling an entirely new story. We are no longer being pulled by the strings.
"Ones greatness is estimated by one's ability to tolerate provoking situations." Shrila Prabhupad. My dear friend and musical muse neighbor, Sarah Quintana asked what it is that we can do about such strife, not even just personally, but why collective pain and suffering takes place. There is so much violence,( as in the shootings in Connecticut). I have come to appreciate the word “tolerance” a great deal this year. Tolerance is only possible when we have sat down to curb our own inner disturbances and “mayis” (MY disillusions). I have found repeating sacred holy mantra (the ancient yogis say that mantra a direct anecdote for maya that seems troublesome) to be affective on a whole new level. This medicine, along with meditation, empowers us to watch a disillusionment dissolve right before our eyes due to repeating something of such high vibration over and over, affecting the inner and outer atmospheres. When we watch the news, and we hear of innocent victims of violence, in our compassion, this is what we must do. We must take responsibility for it. Do I have violence inside of me? Yes. Then I am no better. I have contributed to this somehow, collectively. What skill there is in checking “in” when there is disturbance on the outside, instead of exploding “out” and finding the cure there. I have had so many teachers state, and I myself have profoundly experienced, that unless I am able to catch my own inner violent tendencies, to come to the realization of my own faults or personal “mayi’s” in my meditation, then there will still be deeply entrenched disillusionment all around me. Meditation isn’t really working if you have not discovered any personal faults while you sit. On the other hand, this is quite empowering for us all. It may be possible that your meditation could stop someone from killing another as they act upon pain and suffering within and on the out. That is a serious superpower, done quietly, and no one needs to know.
“It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.” Hopi Indian Verse
When I arrived in India, it was the last day of a week long celebration of Kali, the goddess that sleighs your illusions. Bengali women had smeared red paint all over straw Kali statues that they were burning as quite striking spectacles in the streets. They were screaming an oddly familiar primal scream loudly, and smearing red paint all over themselves as well. It was so raw. So vivid. It made my hair stand on end. I was excited to get to India and loved seeing the cows in the streets, the water buffalo herds swimming in the Ganga, & the cute Ganesha statues with marigolds. As soon as I saw this, I thought...”ok I am good. I am ready to go home now.” This time, on this visit, I was not a spectator. I was diving all the way into the culture and into the unknown. It was unnerving at first but I could see it was helping me to be free of any fear of the unknown. I had to keep going. Once I softened into such a mysterious, alluring place as Mayapur, where chanting, bells and mridanga drums can be heard all day and all night long, the bhajans seemed to slowly put me into a trance. I had such vivid meditations and dreams. It felt like every single thing I was thinking was manifesting, and that every single thing that I had the courage to face was dissolving, quite literally, into death consciousness. I felt like I too was dying at times. While sitting on my rooftop apartment that overlooks the birthplace of Shri Chaitanya under a tree and the Ganga River, I asked God to bring it on. Bring on the dark. If I am dying... fine. What am I so afraid of? I look deeply into the dark, in the land of “Maya”pur, In time, on the hazy mornings, I contemplated on 3 forms, or garlands of protection, much in the same way that many of the Indian’s were wearing malas around their neck as amulets of the reminder of mantra and meditation. Once knowing the purpose of maya, these 3 things seemed to be the answer as to what to do in maya as to never be ruled by it but to better enjoy the game of the mirage. I wanted to share my simple gifts that came to me.
1. Humility. It is vital to remain humble. To never think you know anything for sure. To never think you are at an advantage to others in anyway. To always remember it is never about you. To never seek attention. To not need credit for anything. To release the "I, me mines".
2. Forgiveness. It is so important to forgive ourselves once we realize we are not always skillful and have faults that can be finessed. It is also vital to forgive others of their misunderstandings. To remember you can not avoid misunderstandings in maya, but you complete their cycle by forgiving another and moving on. Forgiveness heals any painful situation.
3. Appreciation. None of this came from you in the end. It all came from God, giving and taking away, again and again, through mercy. Others too work so hard to bring you so much. We have so many unbelievable gifts. If we can not recognize them, their cycle too dissolves. To understand the value of maya directs our future and what is to come.
“It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy. I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from the Spirit's presence.I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!" Hopi Indian Verse
May all that you dream for after a large apex within the Kali Yuga, be so. Look around you. Whomever is here with you now, and whatever is still standing, is of tremendous significance. It passed the Kali test. Maya will take on a whole new meaning for you now. There is so much coming. There is so much more room for it. A gift is always incredible to receive. How it is wrapped is interesting. It is fun. But, it is the content of the package, what is behind the wrapping, that brings the most real and substantial pleasure directly to our soul. Then, the flame of enthusiasm for our lives will never waver, be it “fortunate” or “unfortunate” in the moment of time that always passes. We are here now! It is golden.