|Dr. Robert Puff|
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I'm gonna entitle this issue Spit and Mud. The sensational Dorianne Laux opens and pop culture boss Joss Whedon closes. In between are two interesting people. I hope you are not too nondual to enjoy them.
Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, dont regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
Youve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
Youve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Dont bother remembering
any of it. Lets stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
My search is over
With the drawing of this love, and the voice of this calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time -- Four Quartets, TS Eliot
What can I say about a spiritual journey that has taken such a long and windy road to end up pretty much where it began?
What I can say with assurance is that the journey has defined my life choices. Ive lived a life eager and expecting to encounter God. Ive been willing to go anywhere, do anything and open ever more deeply to that experience, and to assist others to do the same.
And God has never stopped presenting himself to me, no matter where Ive gone or what Ive done. Its been like the childrens game: Youre getting warmer.
In brief, my journey has taken me from liberal Catholic spiritual roots in 1960s Hollywood (California), through a young married life in Cape Town involved in a Christian/humanistic spiritual foundation, to nine years of living in spiritual communities with my children in Cape Town, British Colombia and Colorado. Then, after years in corporate Toronto during which I studied psychotherapy, back to Southern Africa, where I was initiated as a sangoma in Botswana in 2000.
Now Ive come full circle to my ancestral Christian roots. I feel reborn and yet it is the space my ancestors prepared for me.
How do I frame this intercontinental, inter-cultural, inter-religious experience?
I hope that for the most part, as keen as I have been, Ive been a finder rather than a searcher. Because, what I know from experience is that God has presented him/herself to me at each step of the way. (From now on Ill use the common he, if youll understand that for me God is beyond gender.)
I only needed the eyes to see and the ears to hear him in the many ways he presented himself to me through teachers and wise people, the simple joys of love and parenthood, the magnificent beauty of nature and directly through his voice speaking within me.
I remember as a child being told by my mother to expect to feel Gods presence and to hear his voice in my heart.
I feel no desire to convince anyone about my beliefs or experiences because what I also know is that when God shows up in our life, he shows up as God -- not as the myriad projections we impose on him. As Isaiah says, his ways are not ours, yet mercifully he introduces himself to us wherever we are. He invites us into an encounter with him and then shows us who and what he actually is. We have no excuses for alienation, but we can miss his calling by looking the other way.
What Ive done right is to find him as he is, to be open to him when he shows up. The biggest mistake Ive made is to respond to the restlessness and impulsivity of contemporary life and search for a version of God that I think will satisfy my current needs or beliefs. He always comes all right, but in the best possible way -- his way -- to meet my deepest needs. And it may be just to say: Youre getting colder.
I remember, at 17 years old, being asked by the great American psychologist Dr Carl Rogers what I wanted to become as an adult. I told him then that I wanted to be like Jesus; always able to speak right into the hearts and minds of anyone he met, speaking in their tongue and healing them on that basis. Ive never deviated from that desire. I am still inspired by how God speaks his healing and creative ways but through our many languages.
Ive spent my adult life learning ways to heal, to counsel and, recently, to coach. All Ive ever wanted to do is to help remove blockages in others so they can open their hearts to Gods presence in their lives.
Ive studied many frameworks, from modern theoretical physics to Jungian psychology and ancient shamanic practices, looking for languages and healing tools. To support our inevitable life changes, Ive developed contemporary rites of passage to replace those that have lost their cultural currency in Western influenced society. All these have been useful arenas for the Holy Spirit to work within people.
Yet I am most inspired when the Bible shows Jesus using spit and mud, simple stories and the bold challenges of the Beatitudes. He performed immediate and profound healings, he exemplified Gods ways for human beings, and he showed a spectacular command of ritual pro-cesses as he gathered people into encounters with his Holy Spirit. He promised and even commanded that we do the same.
So in my journey, Ive been led back full circle to a simple relationship with Jesus. I indulge daily in the childlike faith in the Holy Spirit with which my mother raised me. And as singer Katie Melua says: Ive called off the search.
Mary Ovenstone is a corporate coach and consultant
Ten-Year-Old Spiritual Whiz Charuji Amazes Devotees
By VIJI SUNDARAM
India-West Staff Reporter
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Don't let his size fool you, or his age, or the occasional giggle that escapes him.
His name should give you a hint of what he is all about: Shri Charu Chaitanyaji Maharaj. So should his title: Bhagawat Alankar.
He is, to hear his father, Prem Achyutji, say it, "an old soul in a child's body."
He has to be, asserts Achyutji, who is himself a teacher of the Hindu scriptures and yoga in his hometown in Solan district in Himachal Pradesh. How else could Charuji, as he calls his 10-year-old son, have been able to recite shlokas from the Hindu scriptural texts when he was barely knee high?
"And he did it with perfect (enunciation)," Achyutji, a self-described brahmarishi, told India-West proudly during a recent interview at the home of his host, while Charuji relaxed in an adjoining room watching television.
"He knows all 12 skandas of the text by heart," said his father. Not to mention scores of verses from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as sootras from Sanskrit grammar.
Achyutji has been the boy's teacher throughout, although he maintained that the boy's mother, whom he described as a tapasvin, passed all the knowledge on to the youngster while he was still in her womb.
"She is his first teacher," he asserted.
Father and son were in the San Francisco Bay Area because Charuji was giving a series of talks for a week on the Bhagavatam at the Sunnyvale Hindu temple. Daily attendance on each of the seven days stood at around 500.
Wearing a white kurta and salwar, and a shawl draped around his neck, each day Charuji first led the audience in chanting and bhajans, and then plunged into the text, chanting first the Sanskrit slokas and following it up with an explanation in Hindi, with the words rolling off his tongue like molasses.
"My favorite text is the Bhagavatam," Charuji told India-West, speaking with a hint of an American accent, when he was finally brought into the living room for this interview in a white silk dhothi, an embroidered white kurta and a red dupatta. A long red tilak marked his forehead.
The boy and his father have been spending a month or two each year in an ashram Achyutji owns near Toronto, where Charuji last year delivered a series of talks at the invitation of the Hindu Mission of Canada.
Asked if he prepares for his talks each day, or whether he ever refers to notes while speaking, Charuji said no.
"I don't need to look at notes and I never forget anything," the slender lad said.
Looking a tad bored, Charuji kept his dreamy eyes fixed on his father while answering questions. Achyutji prompted him to include the word, please, in his responses.
Does he ever get nervous while facing an audience?
"No, please," Charuji said.
Does he enjoy all the attention he gets from the public?
"No, please," Charuji said.
And how does he feel when people garland him and fall at his feet, or when he is received with poorna kumbha - an honor reserved for spiritual leaders - wherever he goes.
"I just keep my eyes closed," he said.
Although his father insisted that the boy's lifestyle has in no way cut short his childhood, Charuji himself acknowledged that his only playing companion back home in India was his two-year-old brother. And playing on the computer was something he never did, he said.
"I don't play on my computer, I learn from it," he asserted.
The boy discontinued school after grade three, even though he was good in his studies, said his father. He is currently home-schooled and plans to take his eighth grade exams in a couple of years.
"They won't allow him to take it before that because of his age," Achyutji said.
Aside from his broad knowledge of many of the scriptural texts, Charuji is adept in yoga. He sets aside some time each morning for his yoga and pranayama practices, as well as for his gayatri japa and other prayers. The boy picked up yoga just by watching his father do it, Achyutji maintained.
At the talks in the
Sunnyvale temple co-founder and treasurer Raj Bhanot told India-West that this was the most expensive religious talk series organized by the temple. Charuji reportedly came with a price tag of $21,000.
Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck.
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