Friday, January 29, 2016

layers of self

The first layer is the anandmaya kosha, the layer of bliss. perhaps a better word is sheath because layer seems to have a two-dimensional feel to it. Anyhow, the layer of bliss is the subtlest of all and speaks to the inherent quality of the soul viz. bliss.

The second layer is the vigyanmaya kosha, the ideational level also considered to be the causal sphere, the layer of intuition, knowledge, ideas and concepts. We were first ideas in the universal consciousness and only later became condensed to matter. Plato's realm of ideas seems to be a description of this. This is not as subtle as the layer of bliss but still very subtle.

The third layer is the manomaya kosha, the astral level of feelings, emotions and thoughts. This is denser than the layer of intuition but much subtler than matter. many adepts can see this layer as colors surrounding the physical body and it extends about 2 to 3 feet around the physical body while permeating it as well. It is subtler than the following layers but denser that ideas and bliss.

The fourth layer is the pranamaya kosha, the layer of energy and vitality. It is subtler than the previous three layers and can be perceived as a silvery glow surrounding the physical body, an inch and a half around the dense matter.

The fifth layer is the annamaya kosha, the layer of physicality, of matter. Here is where the adage we are what eat applies, as literally anna means food. We identify with the body as being us and therefore believe that we die when the body dies.

for more information see

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Chapter One continued

I remember a concept we learned in psychology called ‘functional fixedness’. The function of an object can vary but we get fixated on the one that is commonly denoted. For example, a book can be used for multiple functions other than its assigned function of reading material, it could be a paper-weight, a hand-fan, a fly swatter, a door jammer, a floor mat, a weapon, etc etc. In fact there was a TV show called “whose line is it anyway” that featured a number of improvisers, who did funny things on the spur of the moment and the show had one section on imagining different uses for common objects. And one of them put an umbrella to some very uncommon uses like a boat, a dress, a weapon, a pogo stick, a signaling device, an oar, an ear-piece, a tail, a measuring instrument, a hat, a walking stick, a bat, a hockey stick and I don’t know what else.

It is such fun to free associate that I might get carried away and lose sight of the goal of the writing completely, but if the goal is to write freely then I am on track. Yet I am writing an autobiography of sorts so let me inform you that the aforementioned Tv show was my favorite when I had not had any experience in theater. After my theater experience I appreciated their spontaneity even more, though I could imagine myself doing some of what they did. If you have seen the show you will know what I am talking about. Of the generally four actors I liked the tall lanky one the best. Unfortunately, the women on the show were rarely impressive. Or I tend to prefer women; no that is not my sexual preference, but as a feminist I tend to give women’s issues a fair bit of importance. And feminism is not all men are bastards and all women are angels, as one friend has posted on Facebook.

Sitting out in the back yard enjoying the breeze, watching the pretty flowers in bloom, feeling Spring in the air, hanging out with Kalicrow, the cat and Keno, the dog….this is the life. A long session of meditation in the morning, where I felt the base of my spine get on board. My posture right now is not the best, so correcting that, it is a little harder to write with the laptop sitting on the lap while I sit in shahajasana or ardhapadmasana. Distant traffic noises fall on the ears as do the lovely tones of the bamboo wind chimes. 

There is a gentle quiver in my spine, I notice that often when I go deep in meditation, a clearing and cleansing that happens that reminds me of the “waking the tiger, healing the trauma” book by Paul Levine. Releasing old patterns and allowing the present to come alive and thrive. 'I am healed for Thou art within me'. 

I shared with my supervisor this afternoon about the letter I have written to my father, recently on his eighty-third birthday. Did you as kids play the game of  “I sent a letter to my father and on the way I dropped it and someone came and picked it up and put it in his pocket.” All the kids are sitting around in a circle and the den is going around with a handkerchief in his hand behind them while everyone sings the ditty and the den drops it as unobtrusively as possible behind someone. If the one who has the handkerchief behind her discovers the hanky she chases the den with the hanky waving and gives it back to him if she catches him before he completes the circle and sits in the place that she vacated. If she does not discover the hanky and the den completes the circle empty handed, she still has to be the den. So while you are sitting in the circle singing, you are also keeping a watch on the den to see If he drops the hanky behind anyone. If he does that behind someone else you can relax and watch the fun unfold. Since you are not allowed to turn back and look you try to ascertain with groping hands if the hanky is behind you after he passes you by. Hours of fun can be had in this way. We certainly did.

So anyhow this letter that I wrote to my father and sent it off by post without dropping it, was essentially a call to him to take responsibility for what he did when I was a kid. So far I have been excuses for him in a sense, never ever saying that it was okay what he did, but that he must have been under the influence of his elder brother, that he was coerced or compelled, that he was himself treated in the same way, whatever any or all of which might be true but he still needs to take responsibility for what he did to me, before we can have a genuine relationship. Those are my terms for relating to him.

As I write this I notice that my solar plexus is dense and charged. It is still a heavy topic and intense but I am much healed and lighter as I can write this without weeping or getting super angry. How to stay connected to the light, to joy and peace, while allowing the trauma to heal. By not raking it up, more than necessary, and what is necessary amount? Forgetting about it feels like denial, which I did for years and years and if it came up in my consciousness surely it was because I could finally work through it and heal. Not repress, not suppress, just face it and be done with it for once and for all.

Let it go, let it go, let it go.
What do you hold
In the folds
Around your waist
dear mother?
What is stored
in the tiny, little hump
on you back
dear sister?
What sits heavy
On your chest
Dear friend?
What pulls
Your right shoulder
Higher than your left
Gentle one?
What drags
Your left foot
Sweet sister?
What maims you?
What ails you?
What makes you dis-eased?
Look into your
Feel into the body-mind
And see the answer


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chapter one

I have currently been on this planet in this body for the past fifty years. I probably came before in various bodies at varied times. But for now we shall concern ourselves only with this incarnation. Why? Because it is current and therefore contemporary. Currently I am occupied with various themes.

 Although, I am a psychotherapist I often wonder what my highest purpose is. I do know I am here to serve people, but not quite clear in what capacity. Psychotherapy is very fulfilling quite often, yet it seems to be limited in many ways. Most therapists deal with the mental-emotional layers of their clients, but there is so much more. A few therapists broach on the intellectual/intuitive/wisdom layers of the clients, but the layer of bliss, of essence, of spirit or soul is almost never brought into the therapy room.

I wish I were writing this on a keyboard that goes clickety-click like the old typewriters of yore. There is a romance in that sound that is hard to beat. A music that thrills even as words are getting poured out on to the page. The reader does not hear it of course yet I believe the sense of rhythm and notation carries through.

So one of the themes that I am currently pre-occupied with is to practice my true vocation. And to make good money doing it. Another is about the relationship I am in, technically a marriage, factually more of a close kinship; brother and sister perhaps. It is not just that the sex has gone out of the marriage, but that there is an almost constant competition, a one-upmanship of sorts. It leaves the both of us tired, drained. A healthier relationship would be mutually nourishing, nurturing and supportive of each other’s goals, which we are for the most part, when there is trust, which is not always the case.

Yet another theme is around a conundrum. Spiritually all that is considered ideal and desirable for example love, peace, joy and communion with Spirit, high morals leaves little room for all that is considered fun. In contemporary culture at least in the social class that I belong to, fun is defined for the most part as socializing often with booze, occasionally party drugs, food, entertainment, television, movies, concerts, adventure sports, and so on. So how is one supposed to enjoy life when not sitting on the meditation cushion? If one shuns all pleasures how to connect with joy in the day to day life?

Perhaps the reader is more concerned with maximizing pleasure rather than minimizing it, in which case this would be a moot point. However it is one that occupies me currently. So who am I? This body was born in India of the female gender. This narrative will follow the trials and tribulations of this sojourn but may not do so in a linear fashion. Experiences have been had by this body in different countries so not only might the story jump in time but it certainly will unfold in various locations. However the reader will not have to work too hard at following the narrative as suitable hints will be given, unlike some movies where the action jumps back and forth in time and the audience has to figure out the time line by themselves. I shall inform the reader i.e. you about the age of the body at the time of the event. Also for the sake of simplicity I will refer to the body as I unless strictly necessary although please be aware that I firmly hold the notion that I am much more than the body.

The body is only my grossest form or layer or sheath. The energy layer or sheath or form envelops and permeates the physical body and is much subtler than it. It is usually an inch to two inches wider than the body in most humans as also in animals and all things animate and inanimate.

The mental-emotional layer or form or sheath extends further outwards while permeating the first two layers and is subtler than both of those. Those people that can see auras see this layer as consisting of different colors, for emotions have hues just as they have smells and possibly sounds. I can smell the scents of different feelings but as yet cannot see the colors.

The intuitive or wisdom layer extends even more outwards while permeating all of the other three layers and being even more subtle. We are not bodies that have ideas but we are ideas or minds that have bodies. The concept came first and then the manifestation of it not the other way around. One might think of this layer as being the blueprint of the body.

The subtlest of all the layers is the bliss layer and it permeates all the other layers, so at the core we are bliss. No matter what silly/seemingly sensible notion we might be identified with at the moment we are intrinsically blissful. Even though this layer is extremely subtle it is still matter at some level. I am more than that as well. I am soul having an embodied experience for a while. I am a tiny drop of Spirit that which is in all and sustains all.

All of these have fancy names as well, I know the ones from my country of origin well. The physical body is annamaya kosha as it is the body that comprise food, anna being food, soft n’s. the energy body is called pranamaya kosha, prana being life force, like chi. The mental emotional layer is called the manomaya kosha, where mana is mind. Interestingly there is not western division of mind vs. heart. Manas is the heart-mind of a human being consisting of thoughts, feelings, emotions, attitudes.

The intuitive layer is called gyanamaya kosha where gyan is knowledge, not just information but more like wisdom. This layer consists of ideas, intuitions, beliefs, concepts. The final layer of bliss is known as anandmaya kosha where anand is joy or bliss. And I am an atma or soul, in western literature it is often spelt with a ‘n’ at the end as atman but that follows the Sanskrit pronunciation not the spoken hindi one, which gets pronounced as aatmaa. My atma is one reflection of the universal Spirit which is called Bramhan. And here I will keep the western and Sanskrit pronunciation because there is also a God called Bramha, who is the creator of all.

Hinduism proclaims the trinity as the creator-maintainer-destroyer of all that is, Bramha-Vishnu-Mahesh. Mahesh is more popularly known as Shiva or Shankar. Vishnu has had many incarnations and he is more famous as Ram or Krishna. I do not mean this to be a pedantic lecture on Hindu iconography, but I was brought up with tales of various gods and a few goddesses and so my consciousness is seeped in that mythology. I am not aware of your culture so I do not know what parallels to offer, but most children grow up listening to (at least in my generation) folk tales and/or fairy tales.  Well I grew up on tales of Ram. Krishna, Hanuman, Shiva, Ganesh, Radha and Sita.

I heard these stories from my father who I addressed as Baba and my mother I refered to as Aai. I guess if I were writing this in India I would not be offering so many explanations as I am doing now. Since I currently reside in the United States of America I am sort of assuming a largely western audience. Although western is such an arbitrary delineation based on where the map gets cut off. The earth is a globe not a flat piece of land with Japan at the far East and the Americas at the far west. Had we cut the map through the Atlantic ocean rather than the Pacific the Americas would have been at the far east and Europe at the far west. So many random demarcations become the writ of law as it were, we forget that the other versions are as true but we are not as accustomed to them as to the one in current use. 

(to be continued)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

masked women of Pune - a photo essay

the masked girls/women of Pune

they are not terrorists
they are not bank robbers

they are not followers of a particular religion
they are not under a specific political diktat

they are just trying to protect their skin
from the ill effects of pollution and dust

here is to their ingenuity and perseverance!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

coming or going - US to India or India to US

am i going or am i coming back to india - after six years and a month away. so much has changed. i certainly have and so has my relationship with the people i left behind.
when one travels from point A to point B one is going from A to B. do i still regard India as point A or after six years the US is point A, especially considering i shall be returning to US and living her for another 10 to 15 years.
does the use of the verb necessarily define my sense of belonging?
India will always be home so i am going back to a home coming. how is that?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A narrative

 It was a dark and rainy night. The whole village was gathered together for the funeral. The whole village was grieving and lamenting the loss with loud wails and cries of agony. The little girl sat in the huge room, women on one side men on the other watching the wailing and loud crying with astonished eyes.

She almost giggled but knew that would be inappropriate. She curbed her smile and felt the gust of the overpowering emotion. It rose in one section and abated in another, this wave of open grief. The women sat on their haunches draped in nine yard saris, beating their chest moaning and groaning loudly. She had never witnessed such an open show of emotion before. They duck-walked to each other and wept on each other’s shoulders. This expression was so loud that it seemed insincere. Even she did not cry that loudly not even when her favorite toy fell into the valley and disappeared forever.

She sneaked a glance at her mother. Could her mother do this open wailing show? No, her mother was sitting on the ground (not squatting) and she was weeping, but no loud sounds came from her. The little girl was relieved. There was a measure of sanity in her world. She continued to watch the exaggerated display of emotion utterly bemused.

It had taken them a long time to get to this place. She remembered the flight, the first in her yet short life. They were over the clouds or alongside of them. She had pointed to the clouds in the window with such joyful wonder that her mother had laughed joining in her delight. And the lovely airhostess had offered her candy, which she had refused out of politeness of course as trained, but was glad when the lady insisted and her mother encouraged her to take some: even then carefully picking a few not to seem too greedy.

A few years later travelling alone to an African country to meet her parents there, she had been taken to the cockpit by the co-pilot and had gazed in wonder at all the little blinking lights and the switches and the knobs. What a ride that had been.

And then there had been a bullock-cart ride, another first, on the third and final leg of their journey to the village of her father’s father. It had been extremely novel in the beginning. She had been rather wary of the large animals with their long horns and angry swishing tails and she kept well out of their reach holding on to her mother’s hand for additional safety. There was a romance to the motion of the cart, the slow rhythmic sway, the clatter of the wheels, the gentle breeze. But it died soon enough as the road got bumpier, the air dustier and the sun became scorching hot. The thirst in their throats was mildly mitigated by the rationed water. They were tired and desirous of reaching their destination.

In between was the train ride, which she hardly recollected. Probably because she was used to train rides. Every summer vacation they took the train to visit her mother’s mother’s homestead in Bombay. She would sing the ditty in time with the clackety-clack of the train wheels.

“jhuk jhuk jhuk jhuk agin gaadi,
dhuranchya resha havet kadhi
palti jhade pahuya
mamachya gavala jaooya
mamachya gavala jaooya”

{jhuk jhuk jhuk jhuk fire engine train
drawing smoke lines through the air
let’s watch the trees run
as we make our way to uncle’s town }

she did not get the irony of the stanza that went
mami mothi sugran, roj roj poli shikran
{Aunty is a great cook as she makes banana-pudding every single day} as that was her favorite dish anyways.

There was none of her favorite food at the meal they had upon reaching their destination at her father’s father’s village. It was good to be on firm ground at last, on a surface that was not in some kind of motion. They were fed bhakri (rough bread) and something very spicy. She wanted to ask for some jam something sweet to make the food palatable, but her mother shushed her and she vaguely realized she was a child of the cities, familiar with urban ways. This village in the back of beyond was alien in more ways than one.

At the mourning she grew bored with the tides of public lamentations. It went on and on crescendoing in one place and then in another, her chest fluttered occasionally with the reverberations of the emotion. The drama was not theatrical enough to sustain her attention. She was tired she wanted to sleep. She asked her mother to pat her back as she lay down to help her fall asleep. Her mother stiffened, already too aware of being different, dressed in a five yard sari, not a nine yard one, unable to join in the loud wailing; she ignored her little girl. The child was not deterred. She closed her eyes and patted herself to sleep, self soothing in that strange if not bizarre situation. Occasionally she opened her eyes as the loud noises got to her and she observed a few of the women sniggering as they pointed to her surreptitiously. She could sense her mother’s embarrassment but by now she was angry, angry at being dragged so far away from her regular ways, not being able to comfortably eat or sleep. She ignored the women and her mother and kept on patting herself till at some point she fell asleep amidst the din.

They must have come back late from the cremation; the two brothers, her father and her uncle, along with other males of the village. It was probably strange and bizarre for them too, to have the entire village mourn for their father. A man in a powerful position, who was respected and feared for his authority. A man who had belittled them and put them down countless times. They could not hold the emotional dissonance it created to grieve for one who inwardly they rejoiced was dead simply because it set them free. They were also drunk, drunk with the power of their father’s might. The loud lamentation created such a discord between their internal state and the public persona that they had to find an outlet, to vent their conflicting emotions and the suppressed memories.

And they came upon her laying there innocently in the dark. They entered the room stealthily. She slept unaware until she realized that she was not safe. Then she escaped, she fled her body. A thin long subtle yet strong chord kept her connected to her physical form but she was gone. Out through the ceiling on to the roof and up into the stars.  The rain had subsided, the clouds had cleared the stars were shining bright. She looked at them and she knew she belonged there that she was made of the substance of the stars. Whatever they did with her physical form she was far gone. No wonder she did not remember what happened, because she was not there. She floated in her true home and returned only when others were awake and about, probably the next morning.

And whenever it happened that is where she went. It could not have been too frequently, simply because of the logistics. India is so densely populated that you cannot be alone for very long anywhere. She was saved by the multitudes in a sense. And the stars, the millions and millions of stars that glittered and twinkled and held her in their embrace.

the basket ball player

She was a basket ball player, she is a basket ball player and she will always be a basket ball player, even when the rigor mortis sets in. That is her identity that is her choice that is her definition of herself. That is who she is.

She loves being on the field, loves tackling the ball, letting it slide, letting it slip into her partner’s hands, then catching it again and dancing with it, flying with it over and over again into the basket. No matter where she is, no matter which direction she faces, no matter who blocks her path or how many, she has the uncanny knack of shooting straight into the hoop. She never misses.

She runs, not much faster than most of her team mates. She jumps not much higher than any of the others. She moves with the ball, twirls, swings, careens, she strums the ball like a guitar string.

She is one with it, with the ball, with the hoop, with the field, with the players - her team mates and her opponents. She feels them in her body. She has a sense of who is where and it is mapped in her body. A map that is constantly in flux. She does not plan, she doesn’t have to analyze, she doesn’t deconstruct or strategize. She knows. A knowing beyond words. She may be able to describe it she may not. She has never tried. All she cares about is the beautiful call of the ball - to shoot right into the ring. 

There is no she, there is no ball, there is only the swirling motion that dances all around her and the joy blazing through her thighs and her arms, her back and her head, her front and her feet.

Her team mates envy her grace and fluidity and are all too glad that she is on their side and not the opposite. Her opponents admire her even as they seek to meet the challenge she poses. They try to outflank her, putting half the team around her. But then the others have a field day and score away.

One time she gets the ball in her hands and they crowd around her making it seemingly impossible to shoot. She feels their presence all around and she smiles. She dissolves the obstacles as she sends shattering love through them all and her joy explodes their defenses as they gasp, when she shoots, who knows how, yet again straight into the rim.