By K Geethanjali
As Cyclone Vardah raged around her, K Geethanjali found herself in the eye of the storm, finally in touch with her stillness
My half-hour of meditation every morning at my balcony overlooking the lake is the golden period of my day. It seems perfect to see the sun rise and the birds start their day, fluffing their wings and sitting on the beautiful Gulmohar tree which flowered so bountifully outside our apartments. Truly it reminded one of Robert Browning’s songs from Pippa passes:
The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his Heaven -
All’s right with the world!
One particular morning in December was spent appreciating the Gulmohar tree for its bounty. “So many birds hop and live their lives out in her branches,” I thought, little knowing how Life had a lesson in impermanence in store for me.
The next day cyclone Vardah ravaged Chennai. The energies of 12.12.16 found me sitting in the balcony watching the cyclone rage, tossing at first dry leaves, then fresh green ones hither and thither. As I was marvelling at the force of nature, saluting it as Goddess Shakthi, I saw a tree bend and crack right before my eyes! Nature was having a meltdown and I felt as helpless before Nature’s emotions as one of the leaves that was thrown onto my window sill.
This was just the beginning. The cyclone raged on for a few more hours uprooting trees, ravaging homes and frightening birds that flew hither and thither totally disoriented, having faced only blue skies and fair weather in their tiny lifespans. It was only a matter of moments before my bountiful Gulmohar fell a victim to the storm.
The storm increased in fury and I sat in my balcony literally a hapless spectator. I could see the destruction it was causing. I did not feel threatened as the wind was in the opposite direction and would not affect my apartment. Life had dropped me in the centre as a passive observer. I sat still and alert, overwhelmed by the raw beauty of it all. I knew it was destructive, felt a deep sadness at the loss of so many green trees and birds around me, yet I could not judge it as ‘bad’. It was Life in movement playing itself out.
There I was literally still, in the middle of a storm, knowing that nothing was happening to me. It was all happening outside and I, a mere spectator, still and watching! Is this how we are supposed to face the storms of life?’ I wondered. As if nothing is happening to us but only in the field of our consciousness?
Stillness had eluded me all my life, though as one predisposed to mild anxiety, it seemed to be imperative that I learn to be still. Now, sitting there haplessly with things on the surface totally not OK, I suddenly knew that everything was okay and under control even when they looked so out of control.
By being OK with things not being OK I had finally dropped into stillness.
My pursuit of stillness had started long ago ever since I started meditating. There followed a hard and tiresome journey where I tried various methods like sitting still, trying to control my thoughts, and directing attention to my breath. The more I tried all these things, the more anxious I became. There was someone I needed to become and as a human being with all my faults and foibles I was always falling short _ not only in my eyes but also in the eyes of the people around me.
“But you are not like us, you are a ‘meditator!’” became a common refrain among friends and family, and was often followed up with a disappointed, “What’s the point of meditating all these years if you cannot even keep a rein on your emotions!”
Yes, what’s the point? I began to ask myself. That December morning I realised what the point was.
All my studies of non dual masters and their works had taught me that freedom is ‘right here, right now’. But I generally imagined myself to be a body-mind mechanism and saw my current self as a separate entity in the world. Like most of the human race I usually forgot that our world is a grand show of illusion woven by our minds. This identification with the world would make me feel totally lost and not okay at the surface. But that fateful day in December for a few minutes, I followed the path of non-resistance and witnessed everything as a neutral observer instead of participating as a body and the depth of my being rose to the surface with the message, All is well.
What’s the point of meditating? Meditation had developed my spiritual muscle. Like it takes time for lime to absorb the salt and chillies and get totally pickled, meditation had slowly pickled my subconscious with the song of my being that went, All is well. When I had to lift the weight of things being shaken in my world, this muscle had helped me lift the weight by dropping me into the stillness of my being, reminding me I was just a witness, never totally affected by surface realities.
The power supply was switched off and the Whatsapp message I had been expecting from my son did not reach me. A familiar feeling of anxiety took over.
“When will the power be restored?”, I grumbled as my sister pointed out that the electric lines were all damaged.
The irritation increased as mobile towers were damaged, and the next week was spent in darkness.
I paused and sighed. Mental waves of disturbance again! How difficult to be still when there were so many things to worry about! Then I stopped short. A quote of Mooji that I had noted down the previous day came to mind.
“Let it be. That is strength. To allow total weakness to happen without panic. Be in your stillness.”
As I accepted myself and situations in the period after the storm, I began noticing many things. I noticed that the trees which had sent roots deep inside were the ones that had been able to be stable in the storm and sustain the wide expansive branches they had sent to the sky. I noticed that the years of meditation had helped me get rooted in the Divine, and it was flowering now as the freedom to be still regardless of the externals. I realised that at times it was ok to just be irritated and angry. It was ok to be anxious. In short it was ok to be ME – just as I was in the here and now.
Stillness took on a greater depth. It no longer meant totally monitoring my thoughts and being on my best behavior 24/7. Stillness meant being so flexible that I could be ok with things as they appeared before me. I could be ok even if things were not ok. I could be ok even when I was not feeling ok and was being irritable. Being okay with things and knowing that all was well automatically catapulted me into the witnessing space or the ocean in which the waves rose and dropped! I no longer had to work at standing apart and witnessing. I could enjoy every experience becoming as spacious as the ocean with the feeling that things are ok just as they are now. I was no longer setting up waves of disturbance by resisting what was.
Now as the mental waves subsided with acceptance of things as they appeared, the waves of disturbance subsided and the deep peace that is our base permeated the surface of my being.
I remembered how the strong rigid trees had cracked in the storm but the flexible ones which bent on the side of the wind had survived. It reminded me of a talk by the nondual teacher Adyashanthi. Stillness is truly being flexible enough to accept any experience and any feeling that happens to show up.
Does that then mean it’s okay if I lose my temper and get irritated?
As the zen saying goes things are okay as they are and can still be improved. To improve the situation, the first step is acceptance of self and others and situations as they are. Knowing that all is well regardless of surface externals helps in this acceptance of things as they are. It is not about looking at life with rose-tinted glasses. It is all about realising that even when life is dark and tough, the Light is still there behind it, and it is only a matter of time before the light shines through and we realise we are that Light!
I have often wished that I could brighten people’s lives with a cloud of magic dust and wish away their ills but I see it’s not my job to do so. Every soul is on his own journey of growth. Maybe what I can do is hold this space of ‘All is well’ and bring this dimension of peace and stability to the surface as a reminder that all of us can make peace with our moments regardless of what is happening in our lives.
Maybe that is what the poet Robert Browning meant when he sang:
“God’s in heaven. All’s right with the world.”
About the author : K Geethanjali is a teacher, writer, and healer, currently based in Bangalore. She is a disciple of Mahavatar Babaji
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