It's been a long while since I sat in the crowd at a kirtan. Years ago, I sat in the audience at West Hartford Yoga as Shankara and Friends played and I was deeply moved. It was not long after that I found myself at Shankara's side, playing guitar and bass, in that same ensemble, where I have been ever since. And although playing kirtan has its own rewards, there is a bit of loss there too, as one needs to maintain enough identity to keep the chords flowing, follow the leader, and play together as a group.
Yesterday, the grand-daddy of kirtan chanting in the west, Krishna Das (KD), was in town, for a special workshop at Temple Beth El, sponsored by West Hartford Yoga. I was still on the inside a buit - got there early and worked the set up and crowd control (300+ people came, KD was running a little late, and a thunderstorm blew through just as the long line of people was being let in). But once KD started the workshop, I was on my cushion, in the crowd.
It was an atypical KD event - with a bit of chanting on either end, bookending some reflection on his path, and his guru, and a lot of questions from the audience. Diehard kirtan fans, just there for the music, may have felt cheated, but for me, it was perfect. Kirtan can be draining, and for whatever reason the middle period of reflection and speaking gave me just the right amount of percolating.
So when KD started his final chants, I found myself warming, and falling into the familiar trance of sound, chanting, moving. All very lovely, anticipated and welcomed. But there was a surprise waiting for me. For some reason, all that talk, all that Q&A, primed the pump, so to speak. So when the chant was over, and KD set up his last song, I found my heart splitting wide open, and I found myself sitting in a bubbling pot of tears, laughter, smiles, and embrace that I have found within Direct Experience. Yep, Jude got herself a little bit enlightened yesterday. Wholly unexpected, wholly delighted. So if I kind of looked through you yesterday, or had that kirtan stoned glazed over experience - well, know you know.
In the midst of it all, incredible laughter. I've been cleaning my life up. The 21 day detox cleanse that I have recently completed seemed to trigger a cleaning and organizing frenzy - I have a little notebook on my coffee table that I've made lists of little chores - clean the fridge, vacuum the stairs, etc. and I have been successful at knocking them out. My home has gone from a mess of dog fur, clutter, and mild chaos to peaceful organization. I'm so far down the list that the last few items I have crossed off - replace batteries in smoke detectors, clean out the little plastic cart housing dog supplies and treats, buy a new spice rack and put the spices out of site - were almost invisible in terms of benefit, but satisfying to complete anyway.
After my first enlightenment intensive (and direct experience) I came home to my old place in Hartford, looked around and clearly saw every single spec of dust, clutter, and grime, and thought "who lives here?" I spent hours cleaning that day, the mess grated on my newly opened eyes and mind. So in retrospect, it makes sense that after a solid week or so of inexplicable cleaning and preparation, I was getting ready for something big.
And just yesterday, before the kirtan, I was joking with my friends that I had two theories about the cleaning - that someone special was going to come into my life, or that I was going to die and did not want my friends and family to find me living in squalor. In reality, both theories were true. The "someone special" is, of course, ME! As I sat in my little bubble of bliss, as KD played, tears streaming down my face, I felt the love that all this cleaning and making beautiful has made visible. And, for those who have had the joy of a direct experience, it is, indeed, a small death, as the self collapses and the wall between who I thought I was, and the rest of humanity, the rest of life, and the rest of the universe comes down around my ankles.
The Zen saying goes "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water". Everything changes, nothing changes. I'm sitting in my basement office, the one space in this house that has escaped the cleansing wrath and remains a bit of a mess. It's on the list, trust me, and I'll get to it, I am sure. My big client is back in town and the short hiatus of engineering work is over as his work starts trickling in. I'm back in front of the room for my beloved 9:15 All Levels class this morning.
But, a wholly unexpected, delightful and delicious day yesterday. Summer of 2012, I'm here, ready to play, to love, to laugh, to feel. Come and get me :)