Yael invited me to join her in a reading/discussion of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. We talk via Zoom or email each other on Friday mornings. The following is part of the first reflection she shared with me about her practice. Enjoy!
Yesterday I decided to work with the mantra proposed by Sri Swami Sachidananda: “I’m Thine, All is Thine, Thy will be done.” Immediately, the inner war began. On one hand, I can feel it within me, it guides my politics, it helps me overcome uncertainty and personal adversity, but I depart from it regularly, especially when I feel unsafe in some way. There is no devotion to the idea. There is no surrender. It is more of a principle that feels right – but I never consciously committed to it, because my brain/ego has its own rationale about it.
Well, so I take the mantra for a spin. As Bill and I go on our trash-picking walk around the neighborhood (two bags of trash collected from the sideways of our path) I try to recite the mantra in my mind. Trash picking has become a spiritual practice, why not add a mantra to it? I find that I feel the energy of the trash picking much more effective than the mantra. In fact, I’m slightly forgetful of the mantra, I have trouble remembering the thy will be done part. There is resistance in me to seeing my daughter and grand babies today. There is a big toddler inside me that throws a temper-tantrum about being a grandmother. Whaaa, she cries and stamps her feet, whaa-haa, not ready to be a grandmother! She obviously is not into any kind of devotion at all. The mantra irritates her. It gives her no choice but to go along with the plans.
When we get back to the house I linger in the garden in front of the house, to pick some weeds and remove wilted flowers. I’m covered in sweat and feel a bit filthy because of the trash handling. I notice a bearded man followed by three little blond-headed boys – all dressed in their Sunday best, even though it is Saturday–approaching my neighbor’s house. I find it a bit weird, but not worthy of my interest, and I proceed with bowing to the plants in my garden, as I unwittingly protrude my ass towards the rest of the neighborhood. When I finally straighten up and proceed to go up the stairs to the house, I notice the man with his eighteen blond boys going down the walkway to my house. The man is holding something – shit, these are pamphlets! He is smiling. Shit. I know what this is. He is here to save my soul. But he is smiling, and in the back of my head there is a muted echo of the words “all is thine,”,so I attempt to smile too. He introduces himself as Brian (or Bryan) – and as my nervous system begins to go into fight AND flight – I hear something about some Church and Pastor and two of these boys are mine and the third…something… something. I continue to smile my frozen smile and to sweat profusely. Brian or Bryan asks me if I have a church…something something…and I say, in a fashion that I hope to be as calm as a cucumber “I am Jewish”. And he says something about it being good. Than he asks me if I converted or grew up Jewish. And I reluctantly continue to answer his questions – I’m from Israel. He continues to try to engage me in a conversation by asking me about what part of Israel, and telling me he always wanted to go there, and I attempt to be cordial and crack jokes and invite him to contact me when he wants to go…but then he asks me how long I’ve lived here, and I say a long time, and I can tell in this moment he realizes I’m closed off. He extends kind words about our garden and pleasant something-somethings, gives me one of his pamphlets for the Zion Baptist Church, and disappears.
I go into the house with the pamphlet in my hand. I feel like a complete scam bag. Who would I be with this man and all those children if “I’m thine, all is thine, thy will be done” was already integrated fully in my consciousness? I would stretch out my hand even though no-one does it anymore. I would ask him to sit and chat on the front porch and serve some refreshments, and smile genuinely, and say, let’s talk about God.