just another human, being
I heard the thunderous announcement of an evening guest just a few minutes ago. He slowly danced his way through each tree. As he neared, I listened to him kiss the ground and watched him slowly paint the terrace back to the colour of earth. I didn’t move, attempt to capture a picture, speak words aloud or within, or wish for any other company than that of this sudden evening guest.
With each passing year, I am becoming the tagline of this blog—“just another human, being”. You could say the birth of the story I am about to share started with this intention. But who knows where stories begin and where they end. All I know is that I am grateful to be more in the “being” with each passing year.
Last year, I wrote that I felt like I was being strongly guided towards a new way of life. Much has happened since to make me realise the truth of this statement and the fact that reality truly arises from awareness and intention. There is an ancient African story that speaks of a way of living that is quite prevalent today and one that we must vigilantly guard ourselves against. One that beautifully leads into my personal story of this last year. It goes something like this:
It is said that a man ventured into the inhospitable lands of Africa. Only his porters accompanied him. They each carried a machete in their hands and they made their way through the thick vegetation. Their aim was to keep going at any cost. If a river appeared, they would cross it in the shortest time possible. If there was a hill, they quickened their pace so as not to waste a minute. But suddenly the porters stopped. The explorer was surprised. They had only been walking for a few hours. So he asked them: “Why have you stopped? Are you already tired after just a few hours walking?” Then one of the porters looked at him and said: “No sir, we are not tired. It’s just that we have been moving very quickly so we have left our soul behind. Now we have to wait for it to catch up with us again.”
This is the story of my soul catching up with my body over the last twelve months.
I knew before moving to Mumbai that it would likely lead to my body running around, my heart/mind feeling ambitious, but my soul being left behind. Cities have personalities, just like people, and they bring out certain aspects of our personality. And so I knew Mumbai, similar to New York City, would likely try and bring out my ambitious, scattered self. But I went ahead with the move because the acting bug still wouldn’t leave me! And, as expected, just like in New York City, my life in Mumbai turned out to be fun and “happening” but with a shallow grounding. Sure, I wanted to act (the desire is still very much alive in me), but there were deeper desires that I was too busy running around to listen and sink into.
As I sat with a friend one day on the terrace under the guidance of the night sky, he asked me, “What do you truly want?”. Unsatisfied with my searching answer to his question, he asked me to sit under the sky on my own, look into myself and think big about what I truly wanted. I knew he was right. Roller coaster rides are fun (even if they make you dizzy and sometimes even nauseous), so I kept on going despite my inner knowing that I was going in circles. But that moment thankfully woke me up.
I decided to move out of Mumbai in March 2018 and visit my family in the US until I figured out what to do next. The trip flowed into a six-month experience where I was mostly at home—no running around to audition, teach yoga, dance, socialise, etc. This new stillness gave birth to the “Breathe with Sudha” videos (https://www.youtube.com/c/breathewithsudha), a flowering from a long-time held deep desire to share my journey, talents and learnings in a way uniquely my own. I still don’t know if I can answer my friend’s question satisfactorily, but from this newfound stillness something real had emerged.
Outer stillness leads to inner silence. Upon my return to India in late 2018, I decided to move to Drupad Sansthan, a gurukul for Drupad music run by the Gundecha Brothers twenty minutes outside of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. This blessed move gave birth to a more silent way of life by learning to cultivate the inner silence necessary to hear the subtleties of Drupad music, allowing for more silence in interaction with others to conserve vocal energy and maintain the focus needed to practice, and being led by the meditative nature of the art form itself into a deep silence energised by sound vibrations.
The words stop
And you can endure the silence
That reveals your heart’s
Or that great wrenching-sweet longing,
That is the time to try and listen
To what the Beloved’s
I knew I was being guided towards a new way of life and I only longed to dive in deeper and make it a part of my way of being. I always felt that it was this longing that gave birth to a feeling of love in me. A love for someone that was impractical, intense and mystical. One that took me deeper into silence. One that cracked me open and exposed me to myself. I experienced, again and again, the intense beauty and truth possible in a long, silent gaze into another’s eyes. The futility of words was exposed. The magic and power of connecting through silence and a shared breath was deeply felt.
“The word pneuma (breath) shared its origins with the word psyche; they are both considered words for soul” (Women who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola, Chapter 5, pg 158)).
I emerged from the experience more grounded in my breath and a more soulful, silent way of being.
The pain that Hafiz refers to is one we would all like to avoid, especially during a time of loneliness and grief when it is at its most intense. Yet that is exactly the time to endure and look into ourselves. I have come to learn that suffering opens gateways within us that we normally don’t have access to. As I was led to a time of deep solitude in the mountains, I stepped closer to the divinity within myself. This brief time of solitude was intentional, and therefore, transformative. Unlike the vast majority of my adult life that I spent alone, this time I didn’t skim at the surface of aloneness but plunged in deep, by conducting various experiments in living and peering into myself. What I experienced was loneliness and isolation giving way to a feeling of coming home and contentment. “Long ago the word “alone” was treated as two words, “all one”. To be “all one” means to be wholly one, to be in one-ness, either essentially or temporarily. That is precisely the goal of solitude, to be all one. (Women who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola, Chapter 9, pg 292)
The first thing I witnessed within was the ego-driven nature of the love that I had to offer. While it is a fact that the practice of meditation slowly dissolves the ego, I realised I never made the intention to do so through other avenues, such as love. I started to ponder and read about love and became inspired by the idea of meditation leading to love and love leading to meditation. During this time, Hafiz’s book The Gift became my daily companion. In time, the same solitude that was initially a heavy and lonely cross to bear became a precious necessity I would soon come to long for when the time of solitude ended.
Now that the heart has held
That which can never be touched
My substance is a blessed
And from that I cry for more loneliness.
By closely witnessing the other, I had been awakened to my feminine nature. Now in solitude contemplating love in all its forms, I was inspired to engage with life differently. I started to flow more from my heart—lingering on the subtle scent of the native rose plant, reading many books at once depending on my mood and in various styles (one book aloud with gusto like it was a performance, another silently under candlelight, and another repeatedly going back and forth taking notes like an exam), stopping an activity when I was unable to bring forth inspiration and involvement, being gentle and loving with my body like that of a beloved’s, listening meditatively to the movement of notes as I fell into slumber. The result was that music, poetry and nature started moving deeper and integrating itself into me.
I decided to check my phone only twice each day, once in the morning and once at night. It was mostly an uneventful affair. What was eventful was the discovery that solitude creates a sort of pressure chamber where thoughts become more powerful. Where a thought of someone causes them to reach out immediately just as a longing for something causes it to manifest. And so it happened that my solitude came to an unexpectedly beautiful and divine close on the evening of the seventh day (time really doesn’t progress uniformly) when Ayahuasca (a spiritual medicine/drug from the Amazon basin) manifested itself in my home.
SOUL to SPIRIT
Two days later, in the middle of a pine forest up in the mountains, as I lay curled up in a blanket next to the bonfire during the Ayahuasca ceremony, I realised the following truth:
“To return to an alert state of innocence is not so much an effort, like moving a pile of bricks fro here to there, as it is standing still long enough to let the spirit find you. It is said that all that you are seeking is also seeking you, that if you lie still, sit still, it will find out. It has been waiting for you a long time. Once it is here, don’t move away. See what happens next.” (Women who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola, Chapter 5, pg 149).
As I was gliding back and forth in what I experienced to be a very thin membrane between worlds, I saw that it was both easy to access other worlds and also very easy to lose contact. Hearing the conversations of others around me made me lose contact. Hearing others sing, or even hum, brought me closer in contact. Music is the language of the Gods.
“At the creation, the Gods give the people songs, telling them that to use them will call the Gods and the great forces back at any time into human circles.” (Women who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola, Chapter 5, pg 158)
As I surrendered to the experience, my breath would first undergo drastic changes (heaving strongly, suspending for long periods, or be accompanied by sounds) as I started to enter other worlds. Witnessing my breath during that experience was a revelation. Breath is not only the link between our body and mind, but the link between worlds.
“All of creation was accompanied by…a sound or word whispered or spoken on the breath” (Women who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola, Chapter 5, pg 157)
I received confirmation that I am on the right path and am indeed being guided. Now as I flow through life with deep breaths, I don’t wander very far from my treasured companions, stillness, silence and solitude. The soul will not have to play catch up as I continue to learn how to be “just another human, being”.
Featured Image: http://www.rassouli.com/Rasooly.html