Leaving the environment where mostly all had been familiar, and traveling for now over half a year, has brought me time and again to vividly observe a part of myself that seeks subtly and diligently to find the "good" people - those whom it thinks it has a good chance to feel accepted and understood by, those with whom it thinks it may feel "safe." Yet on a deeper level, what I longed for and what I kept returning to, was to experience being completely alone. Subsequent weeks of isolation in remote and unfamiliar places, months of experiencing feeling deeply lost, and many moments of reaching seemingly the edge of insanity, have given me a chance to intimately feel and face the fear, which functions as both a shield and a barrier.
Two evenings ago, I walked through the bustling streets of London to visit Radha Krishna Temple. At first when encountering an unfamiliar culture, one can clearly observe that there seems to be an existing system of behavior born of a certain established code of morals, ethics and beliefs. Who, Why and What For? are the questions that arise. It has been my observation that it is not possible to determine that any tradition is absolutely right or wrong, better or worse - for each being is unique and walks a unique journey in life, seeking a certain nature and process of learning, which inspires appropriate structures and forms of guidance. We already know so much that often we wishfully ignore, yet in the process of making mistakes and learning to listen to our inner wisdom, we naturally seek and reach more maturity. Although in spiritual seeking the path can involve a practice and process of devotion and purification, it is my belief that the ultimate aim is not simply to become highly devoted and pure - for this can easily become another tactic to qualify and judge ourselves and others. My deepest wish, which is perhaps similar for us all, is not to be accepted into a group, but instead to feel acceptance, understanding, compassion and peace with all aspects of being.
While at the temple on this evening, I felt an inspiration to help serve the sunday feast - an offering to all beings, monastics and general public alike. This arose I believe in part as my seeking of a familiar role, from times of staffing meditation programs and of living for a few years in an ashram, and in part from a deeper recognition and remembrance of the great happiness I feel when my existence and actions can be an offering to the greater good. Yet it is possible to attach a sense of identity to any role or experience - whether we perceive it as positive or negative.
People from all walks of life came to partake of the feast, some who wanted this but not that, some who asked for everything, some who wanted more or less, some who felt ashamed to ask, some who were accepting of whatever was offered. In whatever way they came, so they also were met with the nature of the offering, which was a practice of serving graciously, honoring individual needs with respect, but without preference or partiality. In this practice came an invitation to humbly honor and embody the uniqueness & simple decency of my being. And with this came also a deeper understanding that it is possible to see and sense these qualities within all beings, regardless of outward appearance, momentary state of mind or emotion, orientation to life... and no matter the locale, situation, religion or culture.
It feels a great relief to recognize, there is no where to be lost, no special practice that will get us to heaven or God... no particular diet to keep to... not any single *right* teaching or guide to follow - except the honest knowing and poignant tenderness, that I, and that we all, already carry within.
A sense of ecstatic joy arises naturally through self-discipline, and self-knowing, for one who is honest and not judgmental of oneself, comes to experience an inner embrace, and a feeling of freedom - which can seem absolutely terrifying at first. Yet which is... to enter into unconditional love.
Heartfully wishing you all much experience of love & happiness this new year