I was very moved by this post by Linda Lee Lyberg. It is part of The Seekers Dungeon’s “From Darkness to Light” guest post event. Consider reading this post… and the other posts in the series. In fact, consider writing for the event yourself!
February 18,1994. 3AM. The phone beside my bed is ringing. Nothing good ever comes from a call at 3AM and this one is no different.
Forcing myself from slumber, I answer.
Screaming and yelling on the other end of the line.
“Get over here now! I need to talk with you immediately!”
My trembling voice, “I can’t, not this time. I have to work in the morning.”
“I don’t care I want you to come now.” Again, I say “I can’t, I told you I have to work in the morning. There’s nothing more to talk about. I have asked you over and over to get help, I can’t do this anymore. Get some sleep. We’ll talk tomorrow. I will always love you but you have to get help.” These are the last…
Now that he is back from working on Amma’s North India tour, Sreejit from The Seeker’s Dungeon is starting a new Guest Posting event. It is called From Darkness to Light. Everyone who reads this post is welcome to write for it. Feel free to tell your friends, family, colleagues and anyone else in your life about it! They are also welcome to participate.
Sreejit said: “It is about sharing your darkest times and how you were able to use it to find purpose in your life. Your words might be just what someone else needs to hear. And in sharing we can all remember that we are not alone in our struggles.”
Sreejit is in the process of writing a new song called This is What the Dream Looks Like. It is about his experience of living and working on Amma’s most recent North India Tour. The video below was taken when he shared the lyrics with a group in Amritapuri.
Straw mat and a concrete floor, food in the corner from two days before, laundry hanging from a rope through the center of the room – this is what the dream looks like.
Callus hands but they weren’t always rough, sharp words but we weren’t always tough, one thing this life teaches is that, together, we are enough.
This is what the dream looks like, more than a struggle it’s a fight to be kind when you’re hungry and tired, ‘cause you don’t have any right to be tired
when people are coming to forget their problems, and maybe a little of your time could help solve them, maybe a kind word from you would absolve them of the feeling that they’re all alone – though sometimes we all feel that we are all alone – yeah this is what the dream looks like.
Beaten down by the work no one sees, ‘cause it’s always full-on behind the scenes to magnify the glitz and the lights – yeah this is what the dream looks like.
Getting home to see family at most once a year, and never bringing home the glam and the cheer – just wanting to hide in your bed, to watch tv just to get out of your head – yeah this is what the dream looks like.
Feet full of cracks and can barely walk, always falling asleep and so can barely talk, all eyes on you confused why you can’t form a sentence, let alone a thought,
always irritated by the smallest things, ‘cause that’s just what happens when you forget to eat, and that’s just what happens when you’re consumed with the work that you love – yeah it truly is a gift from above.
Straw mat and a concrete floor, kind of looks like the city before, but that place had water and this one you have to go next door,
but next door they have a kitchen and some home cooked food, and a friendly ear to pry out the blues if you choose to forget for a moment that you are not alone in the struggle – yeah this is what the dream looks like.
While the amount of snow that has been occurring in Seattle will seem small compared to what most of the country is experiencing, it is not small to us. When I moved here in 1966, Seattle occasionally had big snow storms, but there have been many years when we had no snow, or almost no snow.
The last ten days have been quite an adventure. I have loved the beauty of the snow and the challenges, but I’m quite ready for the snow to go away, at least for now.
I learned a new word! I had written a friend that lives in Bellevue and asked if it was snowing there. She wrote back that it was graupeling. I didn’t have any idea what that word meant so looked it up. Google kept changing the word to grueling. I was persistent and eventually tried graupel. That worked! Graupel is defined as soft hail or soft snow pellets.
Later that day, I walked outside and saw many graupels in my yard .
(Click on any photo gallery to enlarge the photos.)
I saw something else that made me curious. At first I didn’t know what it was, but soon realized it must be a thick icicle. It was more than an inch in diameter. There were many fallen icicles on the ground nearby.
Later that day, it began snowing in earnest.
Saturday, February 9
During our first big snow, I stayed inside for days because I was afraid to walk down the front steps. The steps were slippery and they don’t have a railing. This time I realized I could just walk out the basement door. Duhhh. Why didn’t I think of that before? I ventured outside much sooner and more often on these snowy days.
I knew that the little Greenbelt trees that were bent over from the weight of the snow would be bent over again so I walked into the Greenbelt from the Hanford Stairs. The weight of the snow on one of the shrubs created a canopied entrance to the site, I felt like I was entering a magical land.
I removed the snow from the tree I had freed before. I did the same with five other trees on that outing. In the process, I wondered if I was hurting them by freeing them when I knew they were just going to get buried again.
When I got back to my house, I wrote my supervisor at Green Seattle Partnership and asked her what she thought. She told me it would be best to leave them alone.
After leaving the Greenbelt, I saw a neighbor who was about to walk down the hill to the store. As we talked, we noticed that people were try drive down 25th Ave S where a tree had fallen across the road the night before. When they turned their cars around, they almost all discovered that they couldn’t get up the S. Hanford hill. Most couldn’t even make the jog in the road at 25th Ave. S and S. Hanford. We guided the motorists to a place where they could park their cars until the roads were drivable for a while.
When we stopped doing that, I walked down 25th Ave S and took a photo of the fallen tree.
Then I returned home and cleared the snow off of one side of the front steps and off of my car. I tried to clear the front sidewalk too but didn’t get very far with that endeavor; there was ice under the snow that I couldn’t break or get under.
At least I started the job. I was impressed that I accomplished as much as I did. And it felt so good to be out of the house.
Sunday, February 10
It was beautiful on Sunday morning. At 10 a.m. the sky was blue.
Sometime before 2 pm, the sky started to darken. Soon thereafter, it began to snow again.
Monday, February 11
The snow kept falling… and falling.
After the snow storm that started on February 3, I didn’t clean the snow off of the car until it had stopped snowing. That was probably on February 6. My car had been parked in the driveway. It took me much longer to be able to drive than the neighbors who had parked on the street.
When I did eventually try to get into my car, the front door was frozen shut. During the second series of snowstorms, I decided to park the car on the street and to remove the snow at least once a day.
One day, I noticed that brushing the snow off of the car had resulted in a pile of snow around the car that was at times had a height of two-feet. Being hemmed in by snow would would certainly make it difficult to drive. A day later, I noticed that snow was piled tight against the side of the front tire. I sure didn’t want it to freeze there so on Monday, I removed that snow.
Soon after finishing that process, I was surprised to see a woman ski down S. Hanford St. Moments later, her husband pulling a child carrier, or whatever that structure is called, turned the corner onto 25th Ave. S. There were two small children in the “vehicle”.
While I was talking to the family, I noticed a fire truck had gotten stuck going around the roundabout at the south end of the block. When looked that direction a few minutes later, it was gone.
When I checked my email later in the day, I discovered that neighbors had posted photos of “snow art” that they had seen on North Beacon Hill. I was impressed.
Seeing those objects made me think of the snow angels I used to make when I was a kid. I kept thinking of them throughout the day. Eventually, I decided I was going to do it! It was a lot easier to lie down than it was to get up. I thought it interesting that the size of the right wing reflects the trouble I am having with my shoulder.
I was surprised at how heavy the snow was. It took more effort to move it than I thought it would.
On Monday, I cleared the snow off the car .
That afternoon, it snowed heavier than any other day. It was so beautiful.
But before long, my car was again covered with 4-6 inches of snow!
Tuesday, February 12
A neighbor came over and let me know that she was going to clear my sidewalk for me. I was excited to have the help. I joined her so we worked on it together. The day before, another neighbor had told me he would help me get my car out of the snow when I was ready to drive. A third neighbor had picked up something for me at Lowe’s after the previous snow storm. My new roommate carried pellet bags into the house for me and one day, she cleaned the snow of of my car after cleaning it off of her own. I’m lucky to have neighbors who will help me when I need it. I need to remember these incidents when I’m feeling alone in the world.
Wednesday, February 13
I was supposed to teach a class about our forest restoration project to Environmental Science students from Seattle University on Tuesday and on Thursday the students were planning to work on our site. The university was closed on Tuesday so I will be teaching the class on Thursday. That meant I had to cancel the work party. I hope the students will come to a later one.
I have enjoyed the beauty of the snow and all of the adventures it has brought my way. I also appreciate that it has given me the opportunity to catch up on so many things on my “to do” list. But as I said at the beginning of this post, I’m ready for this to end; and it looks like it is going to. Hopefully by tomorrow I will be able to drive!
I have a list of posts waiting to be written. This will be a busy weekend for me but now seems like a good time to start!
I left Amritapuri on the afternoon of January 12, the day before my international flight. If I had stayed in the ashram, I would have probably gone to bed late, slept poorly, arisen at 3 am, finished last minute tasks and then started the two-hour taxi ride to the airport sometime between 4:30 and 5 am. By spending the night in Kovalam, I was able to get a good night’s sleep and leave for the airport at 6:40 am. That trip took about 20 minutes.
Once there, the Emirates agent asked if I would like to have an upgrade to Business Class for $150. I was ecstatic. My excitement was short-lived however. I soon realized that the $150 fee was too good to be true and that he was talking about the leg of the trip between Trivandrum and Dubai. I wasn’t going to spend $150 for a four hour flight, especially since I had spent the previous night in a hotel, and would be spending the night in another hotel once I was in Dubai.
When I arrived in Dubai, I was met by a hotel staff member and taken to the Dubai International Airport Hotel. I was there for 19 hours, which allowed me to rest throughout the day and get another solid night’s sleep before the long journey back to Seattle. I love staying in that hotel. From the time you get into the elevator and the time you leave it, you are immersed in silence.
I can’t sleep on airplanes, so nothing can make the 14-hour leg of the journey easy, but having two nights of restful sleep helps. I watched two good documentaries. I don’t remember the first one at this point, but the second one was called Drowning in Plastic. If I remember right, it was a BBC production. Since I’ve been focusing on the world-wide plastic problem being able to see the documentary seemed synchronistic.
Eventually, I was in Seattle. The immigration and customs process was speedy and I even got my baggage quicker than normal. I ordered a Lyft “taxi” and was soon on my way to Seattle. Before long, I was in my house!
Challenge after challenge
The last time I stayed two nights in hotels on my way home, my reentry was much easier than it has been in the past. Amritapuri is 13 ½ hours ahead of Seattle, so nothing can make the transition easy but the time in the hotels at least helped. If it helped this time, it wasn’t obvious. I’ve been back for 12 days and sleeping has been an ongoing problem. I slept almost 7 hours last night though, so maybe that problem is almost over.
The other thing that has been different this time is that I’ve
experienced challenge after challenge. They started almost immediately. The
ones I’m remembering now are:
When I drove my car for the first time, there was a several inch crack in the windshield. It immediately grew to 9 inches.
When I drove my car for the second time, the crack grew to 5 feet.
The lights and fan in my bathroom went out soon after I got home. The circuit breaker hadn’t tripped. The electric company I chose had a diagnostic fee that was around $250. When the electrician came, he went to the downstairs bathroom and pushed the reset button. It reset the upstairs system as well. I knew the button would work if the problem was downstairs, but I had no idea that it would work in another room. I was frustrated that the company didn’t troubleshoot with potential customers over the phone.
I discovered that the 30 buckets we have in our forest restoration site were stolen.
Someone dumped all of the debris from cutting down a tree into an area of our restoration site that we had cleared. It had to have been a professional company because the debris was sorted and banded.
Someone dumped disgusting garbage along the street on the edge of the Greenbelt. The garbage was further scattered by rodents or animals. I reported it and then eventually picked it up.
My bathroom scale doesn’t work.
The physical therapy appointment I had made before my trip was canceled, and I had to wait a week to get another one.
There were more challenges but that is all I remember at the moment. I would guess my list is complete enough for you to get a sense of what my reentry has been like. Lack of sleep has been the hardest part of it.
Everything hasn’t been a downer though. There has been a lot
Since the electrician was in my house, I decided to spend a little more money and have him install an outlet in my kitchen that has two USB ports in it. I have wanted to do that for a long time.
I have been dealing with a carpet problem for about a year; carpet that was put in three years ago unraveled. That type of carpet was no longer available, so the company couldn’t patch it. That meant that they had to replace all of the carpet in the living room and dining room. The carpet was installed three days ago and it’s beautiful.
I hired a friend to move the furniture out of the area where the carpet was going to be installed. That gave me a chance to sort through the books in the book case and give away any I didn’t really want. He also cleaned and organized the big storage area under the stairs. (I’ve worked on that area from time to time, but wanted to do a deeper level of cleaning.) Many items went to Goodwill or the trash and the storage room looks beautiful.
There is a big maple tree in my back yard that has grown so big that it was covering part of my back deck. It also covered part of my neighbor’s house. I have worried that if a branch broke off, it would damage my neighbor’s roof. I had not done anything to that tree in the 45+ years I’ve lived here. That tree was pruned two days after my return. I received validation that it is a healthy tree and it now looks even more beautiful than ever.
We had a wonderful work party on Monday, the Martin Luther King National Day of Service, and many of the volunteers who participated want to come back! It was the first time we had opened one of our work parties up to children and that was a good experience too.
I’ve had numerous chances to work in the Greenbelt myself. Most of the plants are beginning to bud. I am so eager to see what the land looks like in Spring.
Replacing the car’s windshield was easy.
The Seattle Parks Department is going to take away the 10′ x 10’x 6′ pile of tree debris that was dumped into our restoration site. They will also replace the missing buckets.
I’ve almost finished the part of the February PNW GreenFriends newsletter that I am responsible for.
I went to Seattle Satsang last Saturday and will be going to satsang activities today and tomorrow. One of my goals for this year is to once again get more involved with this group. I’m off to a good start.
I had a physical therapy appointment yesterday. While I still am having problems related to shoulder, neck and ribs, I was pleased to discover I had made progress during the time I was in India.
There have been more good experiences too, but that is enough for now. So, to summarize, it has been a difficult reentry, but all is well.
This was the first time in ten years that we’ve had a Christmas Eve program in Amritapuri that consisted of many different performances instead of a play. It was such a fun and enjoyable night.
One performance was done by a group of about 20 young children dancing to Little Drummer Boy. Most of the children were between four and seven years old. There were little boys with drums, little girls in sparkling white costumes, tiny children in sheep costumes, shepherds with staffs, and some slightly older children who played the roles of Mary and Joseph.
Two Western groups sang or played beautiful Christmas carols.
Two Indian groups, dressed in exquisite costumes, performed high energy Indian dances.
A Chinese dancer did a style of dancing I hadn’t seen before. I was in awe of her dance and want to see more of it.
Another performance was about a man who had given up his heart to worldly things. The dances showed the progression of his life from childhood on. At one point, there was a rewind and all the dancers moved through his life backwards. His life was then replayed showing what would have happened if he hadn’t given away his heart when he was young. It was such a creative and fun enactment. I had a great view of Amma at that time. She had such a big smile, from beginning to end!
The next to the last performance was a reflection on Jesus. Sreejit was a preacher in the piece. He wrote the lyrics, some of which were spoken and some were sung. There were dancers and actors playing Jesus, disciples and villagers. My favorite lines in this performance were:
His greatness was protected because the Lord’s light within it was reflected.
And when he looked at you he didn’t see social status. When he looked at you he didn’t see black or white. He didn’t see man or woman, good or bad
All he saw was his family in God’s holy light. When he looked at you… When he looked at you…
This is his story he came to win, he came to forgive the world of its sin.
This is his story.
The last performance of the night was our choir’s song. I will be talking more about the song and my experience in later parts of this post. For now, I will say that I believe we sounded strong and that the audience enjoyed it. I feel privileged to have been part of the group.
All of the performances were outstanding and well received. After they were over, Amma gave her inspiring Christmas talk.
The spirit of Christmas is sharing and caring. Let us not be focused on our lives alone. Let us look around a little and see the needs of others as well. Even if you are able to help just one person, then you have made a difference. If we can do this, that would be the real Christmas celebration. -Amma
If Amma’s talk is posted online, I will give you the link in a future post. Afterwards, Amma sang three bhajans, the last one being the always rousing Mata Rani. Then, Amma, and her helpers, distributed chocolate Christmas cake to everyone present. That is always a highlight of the evening program. The Christmas Eve program was over about 1 a.m. on Christmas morning.
[Note: As I wrote this section, I was aware that I said more about some groups than others. I had seen the groups Sreejit, Chaitanya or I were involved in practice several times so knew more about those performances. Also, since I was in a performing group, I sometimes only got glimpses of a performance.]
Will You Be There?
In my first Living and Learning in Amritapuri post from this trip, I told readers that I would tell you the story behind the choir’s song after the performance was over. I didn’t want to mention it before because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.
During a Devi Bhava on the 2003 Summer Tour early in the tour, a group of staff members sang Michael Jackson’s song Will You Be There? They moved their outstretched arms back and forth like a wave as they sang. Amma loved it; in fact, she called for the song to be sung every Devi Bhava for the rest of that tour.
Amma’s 50th birthday was on September 27, 20003. As the September day approached, people from all over the world poured into the ashram. Amma called the group to sing Will You Be There every day. All of the westerners joined in. I remember a photo taken of us when we were doing “the wave” in the temple. There was a sea of white, and me who, as always, was dressed in colored clothes. I have such fun memories of those experiences
That song hasn’t been sung here for years, maybe not since that time 15 years ago! So it was fun to think of performing it for Amma again, this time by a choir.
I would love to have a tape of our song to share with you but I don’t. So instead, I will share an amazing YouTube video of Michael Jackson singing it!
On December 27, Amma married a couple who have known Amma since they were young children. I have known the parents of the groom for many years. It was a beautiful and heart felt wedding. Towards the end of the ceremony,the bride handed Amma a poster of herself when she was about three years old. It was a picture of her being held by Amma during a Devi Bhava. Amma held up the poster for everyone in the auditorium to see. The moment was so touching to witness, as was the entire wedding. I had been invited to the wedding feast so I enjoyed participating in that as well.
Letting Go Follow-up: Christmas Eve performance
In my last Living and Learning in Amritapuri post, I said I was going to let go of my need to be able to sing the words of our choir’s song perfectly and let the fact that I couldn’t sing, clap and move at the same time be okay. Instead, I would do my best to relax and have a good time.
I had a chance to put that resolve to the test at the practice on the afternoon of the 24th. I was reasonably successful in accomplishing those goals. My endeavor was aided by the fact that during the practices one of the lead singers stood in front of me and when the song started to go fast, the dancers and actors from many of the performances came on stage and stood in front of the choir. That was quite okay with me since it meant I was hidden.
When we performed the song that night though, the lead singer didn’t end up in front of me. I gulped when I realized that since I was in the front row of the choir, I would be in full sight. but let my hesitation go. I was able to get more of the words right than I had the past and most of my movements and claps were okay. At first, I had difficulty clapping on the 2nd and the 4th beat but at those times I didn’t let my incorrect “claps” make sound. I was really glad I had agreed to participate rather than quit. I would have been very upset with myself if I had given up.
Letting Go Follow-up: Tai Chi
In that same post, I had said I was going to let go of my desire to be practicing the Tai Chi 108 form and focus on all that I was getting from the class as it was. I laughed when in class the next day, the teacher taught the first part of the 108 form I had been wanting to do. That happens so often. When I really let go of what I want, I often end up getting it!
The weather has been very hot for December. This week it has been in the high 80’s and all of next week it is supposed to be 90 degrees. Thankfully, there are so many fans now. I remember all of the years when there were no fans in the auditorium. I’m sure glad those days are gone.
It rained two days this week. Again it was heavy rain. One of them was during and after a choir practice. It was raining so hard that I stayed and watched the next practice to avoid getting drenched. By the time I ventured outside, I had to wade through water that was 3 inches deep in places.
I dealt with numerous challenges yesterday… and this morning. Today, those challenges have been resolving one after another.
just after 8 a.m., I looked out of my dining room window and saw sunlight streaming through the trees. At the same time this was happening, it was raining. The sunlight made the raindrops sparkle. My photo doesn’t do this experience justice, but I hope, along with my words, it gives you a sense of the beauty I witnessed.
Then I got into my car so I could drive to the bakery to pick up the pumpkin pies I’m taking to a Thanksgiving dinner later in the day. As I drove out of the driveway, the first thing I saw was a beautiful rainbow. I parked the car so that I could take another photograph. The rainbow was already beginning to fade when I snapped the picture, but I think the photo offers a glimpse of its beauty. Fifteen seconds later, the rainbow was gone.
Yesterday was a day of transitions, major transitions. At the hub of it all was the fact that I turned 70 yesterday. While it could have been a day when I reflected on the past, it was not that for me. Instead, my reflection was about the fact that, from my perspective, I’m in the last stage of my life.
I have long been aware that tomorrow is not promised, that today is where I should put my attention. That sense is even more heightened now. I have no way of knowing whether my last day on this earth will be two days, two years or two decades from now. It could be shorter, or it could be longer. It is important that I make every day count and not put off to tomorrow the things that are important to me.
That momentous birthday was not the only transition that occurred yesterday. My birthday each year, is the date by which I have to renew my R.N. (Registered Nurse) license. And every two years, I also have to renew my ARNP (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner) license by that day. Both license renewals were due yesterday and I did not renew them; I had decided this was the year to let them both expire.
I have loved being a Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, or, in short, a nurse psychotherapist. I have loved accompanying hundreds of clients on their healing journeys. I will miss the clients I have worked with in the past, and miss the ones I would have met had I chosen to continue to do that work. But I believe that that time in my life is over.
Yesterday was a quiet day. I talked to my grown children, Sreejit and Chaitanya and had breakfast and watched the Seahawks game with Al, my ex-husband. Later in the day, I answered the Happy Birthday messages from my friends who saw the birthday notice on Facebook or already knew that it was my birthday. I talked with one of my past co-therapists on the phone and worked for a while getting ready for the upcoming Greenbelt planting work parties.
I usually don’t do anything in the evening, because I am tired by then, but yesterday, during the late afternoon, I remembered that a friend was leading a kirtan at a place in Greenlake. (A kirtan is a group experience of devotional singing done in a call and response format. Many of the songs are in Sanskrit.) I have wanted to go to one of her kirtans for a long time but have never done it. In that moment, I knew that this was the day for me to go.
Before long, I drove to Greenlake and soon thereafter was sitting on the floor of the studio listening to and singing the glorious music. I have longed for that experience… and now I was having it. My “monkey” mind was more silent than it has been for a long time. I sensed that this was yet another transition point.
Another highlight of that experience was that the song that was sung before the closing chants was one that has been important to me since the mid-eighties. It was part of my own healing journey and I have shared it with clients at some therapy intensives and on this blog. My heart soared as I sang it once again.
Yesterday was a day of transitions. I look forward to experiencing what this stage of my life holds. I know it won’t always be easy but I believe it will all be important.