Monday, July 30, 2012

Altar-ed States of Consciousness

I have an altar.  It is a beautiful one set up in the backyard, protected by the sacred herbs rue and chamomile, and in the center is a statue of the goddess Durga, a sword yielding goddess of protection.  When I created this altar several months ago I envisioned myself waking up each morning and sitting in this pristine space surrounded by chirping birds and the serenity of my own mind. Every morning when I water my plants, I rinse out and refill the offering bowl to Durga. I fill it with fresh water and promise myself that I will come back out to sit, breathe, and meditate.

Fast forward to today.  Today I sat at my altar for the first time.  Mostly, I was inspired by this blog that I am starting to write. I thought it would be a good idea to center myself and do something 'spiritual' so I could receive some kind of divine guidance on what to write about.  As I snuggled myself into my seat, started to focus on my breath, and waited for that blanket of peace to envelop me, I was not met by divine inspiration, but by a swarm of ferocious mosquitoes.

As someone who grew up in the mid-west, I am very familiar with mosquitoes, horseflies, deer flies, and the like.  So I tried to sit, peaceful, serene, calm, protected by rue on one side, chamomile on the other, and Durga straight ahead.  I found my mantra, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare...." and in the meantime, the mosquitoes found their way to my tender wrists, the crease of my knee, a nook on my neck, and even bit through my yoga pants into my thigh.

Sitting there, I knew I had two choices.  I could breathe, be still, emanate a bright jedi-like force field of light around me and stay in my seat.  Or, I could swat at these blood suckers and make a run for the door.  Immediately a third option came to me. So instead of martyring myself to the bug-gods or giving up on myself, I opened my eyes, continued reciting my mantra, and gently wafted the bugs away when they got too close (ie landed on my flesh).

It was a beautiful moment.  I stayed for about five minutes, breathing, observing, reciting, and engaging with the dance of the mosquito wings as I could feel the delicate breeze they generated as they flew by my arms.  Some might say this is not 'real' meditation, that I should have disengaged from the external and given my full attention to God.  Well, sometimes the best we can do is try to strike a balance between honoring the God-in-nature, and honoring the God-inside.

Only 3 mosquitoes lost their lives during the course of my spiritual practice.  Could I have done better and not lost my temper with these creatures of God?  Maybe?  Yet one thing is certain, in those five minutes, I felt many faces of God, its mercy, its suffering, death and life. I can happily say that my first meditation at the altar was a success.  As I sat there open-eyed and interacted with life, my perception of meditation was altered. Perhaps we can say that meditation isn't always about letting it all go.....but sometimes meditation it is about letting it all in.....

I am grateful for my altar and I look forward to future meditations with my eyes wide open. Welcoming in the sirens, heat, and bugs, as an integral part part of expanding my consciousness.