I received a half dozen emails over the past week from various sources inviting me to think about what Independence Day, and correlatively, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, mean to me? What does the Bill of Rights mean to a progressive, feminist, environmentalist (contrasted, for example, with someone whose life passion is to prove that true freedom is the right to carry a gun)?
When was the last time you thought about the Bill of Rights? What does it mean to you? Does it have a different meaning for you as an individual and you than as part of a collective?
The other day I was telling one of my regulars that I’d described the group house practice as starting with receiving darshan — receiving sacred knowledge, sitting in the presence of the divine embodied in a great being — from Uma and Sully, who wait downstairs for the students to arrive and expect a petting before everyone goes upstairs to practice.
” Is it darshan or puja [performance of ritual worship]?” my student asked. The two are intertwined. We naturally offer our gratitude and worship for those in whom we recognize the divine and from whom we learn to know the sacred.
What would our lives be like if we treated all our encounters and relationships as both darshan and puja, if we came to each person and being open to receiving a glimpse of the divine and the knowledge the divine imparts and approached each encounter as an opportunity to make puja, to formally act with reverence? The cats certainly expect it.
This fountain is at the main entrance (not on the Mall, but around the corner) to the Department of Labor. It is only on every once and a while, and I do not usually use this entrance, so the fountain is not a main part of my relationship to the building.
One day, a couple of years ago, when I was sitting quietly near the fountain to get some soothing energy from the sound of the water and being outside, I thought about how much it resembled a shiva lingam. Was I seeing symbols that were not intended? Was the artist pulling one over on the government by submitting a design that carried symbolism that, in 1974, would not have been acceptable to many in charge? Was the symbolism there and understood when the design was permitted to be implemented? Do the answers to any of those questions matter with the fountain and all its imagery present in all its effusion?
I woke and dressed myself as early as if it were a work day to take the metro and then the bus to the little playground/park where we entered the creek. It was already promising today’s humid heat in the sun, but it was pleasant in the shade. The group was a good size. Large enough to get some work done, but small enough to stay easily connected. We divided the work — path or creek — based on who wore which shoes, which allocated the cleaning well.
It was a beautiful way to appreciate off the mat the Anusara axioms, “look for the good,” and “respond from the highest.” As you can see from the pictures, Long Branch Creek is a lovely sanctuary of greenery and running water. It is evidently not fresh, but it is still giving its all. We could see the beauty, but also recognize that the creek could more powerfully share the energy of nature if it was not so dirty. Rather than complain that the creek was dirty and dangerous and stay away from it, we were invited to appreciate both what it is and what it could be and got our feet wet and ourselves dirty to be with the creek. I wish it weren’t necessary, and I will be looking for more ways to try and contribute less waste, but I think in the meantime, it would be right to do this more often.
We have a choice. We can emphasize what we don’t think enhances life (for example, an over-sized, gas-guzzling, suburban SUV with city plates) or we can focus on an exquisite reflection of beauty. That we see what optimally would better be changed or shifted to be more fully aligned with nature or that we speak of it does not mean that we are not seeing beauty or embracing the whole of life with love.