15 December 2008

मुसिंग्स ओं सोल्स्तिस

About 10 years ago, I found an eight-inch Miwok pestle grown into the rootball of a fallen giant in the forest at the Vedanta Retreat at Olema. Miwok used these to grind acorns for flour, they say. And the miracle of finding such a thing after the hundreds of years it had slept inside the soil of that rootball did not escape me. But I spent the next two hours looking for the mortar that went with it. Then I returned to the Retreat House and showed Swami Prabuddhananda the pestle. I asked him if I could keep it, and he responded, "Oh, if you must."

Then I told him of a day in the mountains in Colorado when I was sitting with my feet dragging in the water on either side of the point of a small island in the stream. In the midst of that, I understood the connectiveness of all things, matter and energy flows, essentially the whole of everything. I saw the whole of creation, of eternity, of the way that planets are atoms and solar systems molecules, snowbanks are sandunes. And even though it had been 25 years before, the absolute magic of that moment stayed with me. I was still trying to get that back. Just like I was trying to find the mortar. I couldn't see how it was possible for me ever to be satisfied if that were my character.

He said a couple of things. First, that the Miwok probably didn't carry their mortars, but just used rocks with hollows in them in situ. Why would they carry something that was all around them on the ground? The pestle, on the other hand, was a tool and valuable, because rare. So they would have taken that with them. That it was important to know what was which and not to carry the heavy mortar when you don't need to.

Second thing he said was that enlightenment comes and goes. And that I had probably been enlightened many times in my lifetime, but still hadn't gotten to the point of realizing that like everything else, it wasn't something I could hold onto. But I could use that experience to inform my perceptions of everything going forward. And so I try, lugging along the mortar, sometimes, and sometimes the pestle, sometimes enlightened, sometimes too in the dark to light the candle in my hand.

When I typed the Title on this blog, it translated my words, "Musings on the Solstice" into sanskrit letters. I have no idea what they mean. But I'm satisfied that this is what it is. May enlightenment catch up with you today, and may you be so enlightened that you don't try to hold onto it! Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.