hip hop

All morning I had been feeling  a strong inclination to visit some yogis whom I had known decades ago, but with no address at hand I had only a vague destination in mind, trusting that the end of the road would become clear as I proceeded.

Mapless, I entered  the car, invoked the guidance and protection of Ganesha and my teacher, started the engine, and waited for direction. For a while I idled in the driveway. Only when I felt subtly moved by the spirit did I then back out, turn the wheels, and move the gear into forward. For several minutes I was moving north at 2 miles an hour, then at a T intersection I `felt’ which way to make the turn, then another turn, and another, and so on until a larger road opened. At last I felt even more direct nudges of guidance and soon was moving at the full speed limit, 65, heading south.

The thought ,”Where is the exit” did not occur, nor concern me.

I had no thoughts, so also had no distractions. I had an idea where I was going, but no names of streets or towns  to go by, yet within an hour I was, literally, at the end of the road, and there was a gate, open, and standing in the sunlight was a woman I had not spoken with in over thirty years. This was an ashram, deep in the woods between Malibu and Agoura.

That was some months ago and I have made other visits since, the most recent of which was Sunday, July 8, 2012–but this time when I set out I was running late for a scheduled event there, and at first I drove fast even though I did not recognize any signs along the way. It was as though I not only had forgotten the route but also was driving through deep mental fog. For mile after mile I found neither visible or invisible signs, no inner promptings on when to turn or which way to go. (Before setting out I felt certain I knew the way by heart now–and I had not thanked Ganesha… besides,  I was running late.)  At last I recognized a street name so turned, but  it led me in the wrong direction, so after a half-mile or so I  turned around and went back, beyond where I had entered, only to find a dead end. (It was the right street name, but this end did not connect to the road I needed.) Such a foggy day in this old grey head!

Retracing the route was a long slow drive with more false exits and you-turns, and only when all frantic thoughts (I’m late/I’m lost) subsided did I recognize another familiar street name. Upon taking that turn at last I remembered in full the remaining way. Within a few minutes I was turning onto the ashram road, but wait–a hundred feet ahead was an expensive late-model luxury sedan pulled off to the right side. I sensed that driver too was waiting to find the way forward so I slowed…, and sure enough the driver suddenly pulled in front of me, and together we proceeded to, literally, the end of the road.

We each sought parking inside the grounds and I, sitting in the car, chose to close my eyes, watch the breath, listen to the hum in the head, gathering presence* and thanks to all for allowing me again to find this place. This was a scheduled event, and I had arrived late, well after the announced start of the function, but I needed to calm my mind before sharing it with yogis.

When I opened my eyes I found the other driver also had not yet gotten out of the car, and now we both decided at the same time to leave our vehicles for the walk to the temple. That driver, a woman in white, took the high road, while I, in gray shirt and trousers, took the lower path to the bridge leading to the temple. I could see across the bridge were two women residents, also in white, standing at the temple steps, and as the lady driver greeted them, the three went inside together. As I approached the doorway I saw ample ladies shoes left outside, but only one pair of manly shoes, to which I added my own. I opened the men’s white door, and stepped inside onto the deep blue rug. There was silence. The event had not begun.

That Sunday was the 18th anniversary of the re-naming of this forest hermitage, from the The Vedantic Center to The Sai Anantam Ashram. Many residents and devotees soon enough came forward to speak of their experience and love as the event formally began.

An older gent talked about his visit to Los Angeles on the previous evening, where he had learned first-hand something new to him about hip hop, which he defines now as an acronym for

h igher

i nfinite

p ower

h elping

o ur

p eople

The way he said ‘helping our people’– his sincerity and heartache was so simple and clear I could feel the pain of an entire people speaking through his heart.

Later a young girl sang a new song for this special event, an adult then respectfully chanted a hymn of the Guru, a lady read from a hallowed book, and then songs written by Swamini began, a blend of Indian raag and jazz, so uplifting and energetic I went into deep meditation surrounded in love and devotion.

After only a few songs I found myself rising to leave, and outside as I sat on the steps to put on my shoes, that hip happy gentleman came to me and asked, “You are not staying for prasad?” I raised my head to see his face and said, “I thought I was, but it seems no, I’m not staying… but just the body is going, you know.” He laughed and I chuckled with him and then he said, “I must tell you,” then he paused as if thinking, then continued, “the first time you came here, you… you caused quite a stor…. you know? ” (To this day I do not know if he meant ‘storm’ or `story,’ and did not ask.as he quickly said) “-but you disappeared so fast and when you came again you didn’t speak with anyone, and now you’re disappearing again.” He was smiling, but he also seemed to be waiting for me to explain.

In my first visit I had recognized several residents from long ago, and dining with them I had spoken of things that came to mind from memory, reminding some of details they had forgotten, and others of matters I intuited about them. With this dear man now, for example, a fellow whom I had never met until that first visit, I had spoken openly of things about him which none of his fellow brothers or sisters knew, and when I said them they laughed and said, “no he never did that,” but then he corrected them, and said, “Don’t react so fast… he’s right, I did do that.”

I mention this now because after that initial visit, this chat on the steps was the only occasion any resident had spoken again with me, or I with them. I was very touched by his kindness and so I stood to embrace him, and he in turn embraced me; two old men, standing outside a temple, embracing one another in sunlight.

I whispered in his right ear, “I want to tell you because you have come out here, speaking with me now the way you did: I love You” and holding me he whispered in my right ear, “I love you.”  I took his strong hands in mine and stepped back to look at him, at which out of my mouth came these sounds: “so many broken hearts to heal…”

He said nothing. I said nothing more, and we parted for my long, silent drive home, knowing one day, one good day, you would hear this.

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______________________________________*+*________________________________

regarding “presence*__

                     ~guyatree adds:

    :————————*+*———————:

It is 2:17am July 29, 2012. Ads have begun appearing on my URL at WordPress. I pay for the url and for other extras. I in no wise approve of any advertising to be associated with my creative work, and it is  being done here without notification to me or permission from me. Dear reader, should you agree with my outlook, please do not purchase anything from the advertiser or from WordPress.

Jai Siva Sai

@guyatree

*+*

Homeless in paradise

This city hosts the Reagan Library, in the golden state, in the United States of America. It’s a small town, with small-town values, and several millionaires.

Bike ways and walk ways abound.  Our sole freeway links the city to Los Angeles and to Santa Barbara, while local buses run to every corner of the city, so you could drive, bus or train to (or from) just about anywhere.

There are well-tended public parks every half-mile or so, and a state-of-the-art senior center serving hot meals for two bucks. The library next door is free to all seven days a week, with wifi , and no one is kicked out for talking, or for sleeping.

At dawn this morning my dog Buddhi and I walked to a large park near the library where she can chase squirrels. She never catches one, and they seem to delight in teasing her, waiting for her to get just close enough to maybe catch one, then all scampering up trees just high enough to be out of reach and then turn to look down at the dog, laughing with that clicking noise squirrels make when they are dominant,

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure coming toward us, (us being me, the dog, the squirrels) and made out the approaching person was female, maybe in her late forties as her gait was weary and slow. To make her feel easy I leashed Buddhi and waited for the lady to pass.

As she got closer I saw I had been wrong… while her body did look middle-aged, her face was that of a teenager, blond hair, no make-up, no purse. I sensed there was something amiss, but kept my distance and only smiled as she walked by.

She came over to say hello to the dog, not so much as even looking at me as she knelt to the dog. Sensing her kindness Buddhi replied to her with great affection, standing to lick her face. She then looked at me and said, “Critters love me, ” and smiled.  Her face was clean and lovely, and I noted she was wearing loose-fitting pj’s and cloth houseslippers with no socks. (Sometimes neighbors will come out somewhat casual like this, walking their pets, but not here, not in this large park, so because of her appearance she ‘felt’ different.)  I asked the young girl, “You ok?” She said nothing, petting the dog, then softly said to Buddhi, “I’m ok, huh doggie? We’re both ok, aren’t we.”

I asked how I could help.

“Oh I’m ok, really. I got a car back that way, and my fiancee is coming to bring me some clothes, that’s why I’m here, we have an appointment and he’s late so I walked out here to see if maybe he was around. I’m ok. I like your dog. I have  a doggie too, but he stays in the car cuz he isn’t licensed.”

I asked if she knew about our city social services. She knew them well. “I went to that one down there a mile or so, and the one on the other side of town, and the food bank too. They can’t help. See I was on welfare and it’s all used up so I’m not eligible for help now.”

I asked if she needed food or drink or money or laundry help. “Naw, really I’m ok.” She looked at me for the  first time directly in the eye and said, “I get by asking people if I can clean their house, or yard, or something, whatever they need, but the past few months, seems like everybody is having a tough time now, not many people are able to help like they used to.”  I asked what I could do. ” Nothin’.. nothin’, It’s ok. I don’t drink or take anything and I’m not… I’m not a bad person.” I knew what she meant.

Numbering the homeless here this year, volunteers met one hundred ninety-six men and seventy-four women, including eighteen folks over the age of sixty-two, and nineteen who are aged eighteen to twenty-four.

It’s a small town, with small-town values, and several millionaires.

White Crow

May 18, 2012

I enjoy writing; the blank page, the images in my mind, the search for clarity and brevity and wit–the entire process as I wait to hear a true sentence arrive.

Hear, yes– and not read, because for me, beautiful as a completed page can be, writing starts with mental imagery which becomes a sound, and that sound then is formed word by word into a sentence.

After all, before writing there were stories and story tellers who relied only on memory and wit, not reading a script, and their telling led to listening and memorization becoming essential skillsets, so that even today the well-remembered stories for me are most often those I first heard, and which I now read aloud for my family and friends.

Here is an example

White Crow 120518 (A short story audio file, mp3)

Consilience


May 14, 2012

`*+*
Sometimes when sitting or walking, there is an awareness that thought has stopped, and when very alert I am able to calmly notice the absence of thought without being distracted into thinking about it. At such times I can  almost ‘see’ when a new thought is forming. It bubbles as it were into the inner vision from a deep dark area below and to the left , then takes weight as fragmented imagery, and then suddenly blooms into a full thought-word-image containing memory, presence, and charge.  At that point, I can let the thought pass, or let it provoke mind-chatter, and whichever happens it takes some time to return to the silence.
During a telephone chat with a dear friend,  a contemplative, I described that  experience and she said, ‘hmm,  sounds like sunyata.’ I considered that, and then asked some monks and swamis about it.  After getting more information I did not talk about it further with anyone, but dwelt on it, wondering if  the experience were of significance, or just mind-noise. 
After a long interval, my friend called again, and as that unusual space between thoughts was now a somewhat frequent occurrence I mentioned the details again. She was quiet a few seconds, and then said “Are you sure you’re not just sleeping?”

                       In an open sky

                           two birds sit on winter branches

                                                  Bell of silence reigns

*+*’

 

Awakening

Purportedly the Zen teacher Suzuki roshi was never heard to say he was enlightened, and when asked by a reporter about that, his wife replied to the questioner, ‘that’s because he isn’t!’

In my mind’s eye I can see the roshi rubbing his head and smiling. I can also see the wife not smiling.

Married guys might get that; wives more often see the warts and farts in the everyday husband, see more the buddy in him than any buddha. My own wife, who is quite frankly a saint, sometimes criticizes me for being arrogant or mean while at the same time I claim to be enlightened. (It does me no good whatsoever to point out I do not claim to be enlightened.) Pressed for specifics, I admit I do say I am awakening, and by that I mean just as I go to sleep every night, I awaken every morning. The raised eyebrow and grimace on her face tells me I need to clarify so I add, “Enlightened sounds like you were unenlightened and then pow one fine day suddenly and forever after you are enlightened, no more changes.”

To that assertion, my wife replies, “but that is exactly what enlightenment is! All the masters say so, and besides it doesn’t matter what you or I call it, you are not an illumined being so just come down off your high horse and take out the trash, now.”

I reply, `Yes, dear’

Later that day…

NPR is talking about Jamaican runners who train in their own country, using a discipline of relaxation to increase power and vitality. Does that work? The head coach in reply asks the interviewer, “Did you ever see a Jamaican runner suddenly come from the back and rush past all the front runners to win?”. The interviewer says ‘Yes,’ and the coach says “No, you saw no such thing–what you saw was the Jamaican maintaining his pace throughout, and the other runners losing power and falling back.”

I think awakening is sort of like that. Once awake, you learn to be steady and to proceed relaxed, moment by moment, day by day, thereby awakening a little more each day,  and continuing forward.

I tell this story of the Jamaican runners to my wife, who replies with that look and the words

“Yes, dear”

guyatree

I was raised to be a soldier. It is what my dad did for forty years. As a child my playtime was spent for the most part alone, training myself in the deep woods to live on the land, eat what was there, and to become as stealthy and deadly as a ninja.

Of course in those days no one in Alabama called themselves a ninja. The word  was soldier, and in my mind “soldier” had a grand kind of glory attached to it, a word of honour and sacrifice and solitude.  Besides, I never wanted to be anything else.

Until I was sixteen.


Why is this called guy a tree?

My name is Gaetano BonGiovanni. Close friends call me Guy. As a play on words I use the handle “guyatree” online. Why?

Is it because I am old, with deep roots and many branches, and because I have known many springs?

Well, sorta, yes…but to say it not so over-the-top dramatically–as is my nature in all things– first and foremost I use guyatree because I love the prayer Gayatri , but that handle was taken, so I thought of using “guyatree” since the sound is the same and I like the play on words, guy a tree or guy@tree.

As it turned out the “guyatree” username was available, and since my best friend thought it an ok handle, guyatree now can be found via flickr, gmail, skype, twitter, tumblr, and wordpress–so if you resonate with this ENFP, I hope you keep in touch!

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