My son Chris is in India. He had business in Delhi, and then, took the train to Varanasi, called the most spiritual city in India, which is saying a lot, as India is a spiritual place. I sent him David Whyte's words on "Rest", and he responded with this:
I love that. I love that I just got it.
I was meditating this morning, and oscillating between that pursuit of the bullseye of stillness, versus the quiet of rest and flow. That was just what I needed to read this morning.
Varanasi is both otherworldly and intensely real. I watched bodies being burned last night in the deepening evening. A goat, after rooting around in the trash nearby, walked up and peed next to them. One of the pyres with the body wouldn't catch fire, so they were trying things to get it to burn.
I was thinking of the practicality of making a good pyre. And, of course, the people who work there have seen a thousand bodies burn, so despite the spirituality of the experience, it is really a practical issue for them. And the feet don't always burn, as they are hanging of the end, so someone told me they either throw them back in the fire or in the river.
I am not sure I have ever been anywhere manmade that is more spiritual. Death is ever-present, but it does not weigh the city down. Children and adults fly kites all across the city. Smoke, haze, smog, fog mix. Chanting from the temples and mosques swells at different times, different kinds of chants from different religions. The sound is unreal, and then mixed with music and the sound of monkeys, who get scrappy on the rooftops.
The place I am staying is perfect. It is part of a foundation of a woman who is working to prevent the waterfront from becoming modern hotels. The guest house is multistory, with a center section, where columns of light fall. I have my own room for two nights, for $13 per day. Then, if nothing changes, I am in a room with three others. I like my own room, but am staying open to being communal for two nights.
Breakfast soon, then off to take some video. I can capture only snippets, not the whole. And rest...
I think of how we each can capture only snippets, not the whole, and yet, here we are in a tapestry, a cloth, a field, feeling the movements up and down, the waves of response, the ocean, a container for change. Chris's words remind me of my time in Kathmandu, and in the mountains of Nepal. Spirituality there waves with prayer flags, spins with prayer wheels. The air is rich.
The protests have been strong in Berkeley. My friend Jane lives in the Oakland hills, above, and yet, when she went to a place she is involved with, the Women's Cancer Resource Center, on Telegraph in Berkeley, she saw four planters had been overturned, and the herbs growing there tossed out. We can understand the need to protest, the absolute need. My niece is protesting in Boston, and, in Berkeley, these little herbs are overturned, and perhaps that is what is needed. Like feet tossed into fire or water, we honor transformation and we need change. Maybe we forget that here, where we don't see bodies burned as we walk the streets. Instead, these days, we are bombarded with canned music, even in restaurants, constant noise, and often a TV on with Fox or football. Where do we rest?