Contentment during the Holidays: Santosha Niyama

I struggle during the holidays with reunion small-talk. 

The last point in my life I felt secure in these talks? College. There I had an institution to hide behind, a goal, a deliverable at the end of my task. Blessed to go to college for many reasons, the minor one being a shield of answers to unanswerable questions. What are you doing with your life? Are you still acting? Where are you working these days? 

We are raised in a society that is results-based, materialistic, and at times not at all concerned with the reality of one’s soul. I was a catalyst on this, usually when introduced to people one of my first questions on my mind was Where do you work? Somewhere after 8 or 10 post-college Thanksgivings I shifted this question to What do you like doing? What’s happening in your world currently? Are you enjoying yourself these days? 

My Thanksgiving this year consisted of a high-tempo reunion week, filled with questions. I was so patient, answering completely, being vulnerable, exposing. Venting, yes. Lost within contexts, answers, financial and geographical details that were as difficult to talk about as they were freeing to air out. At times, completely emotionally exhausting.

Cornered on the deck, I sat wondering why I had so much ground to cover. My heart was feeling the loss of my boyfriend, whom I had broken up with a week before. Why aren’t things different? Why didn’t we work out? Why do I feel so alone while surrounded by people?

In Patajali’s Yoga Sutras, eight limbs are described as a way of living a yogic path. The second of these eight limbs are the five Niyamas, or the observances of a spiritual life. On that list? Santosha Niyama, or contentment. Our willingness to be present with whatever life brings.

Contentment is the difference between one who is constantly searching and one who is consistently there. 

It was after this Thanksgiving I realized that contentment does not rely on questions. Contentment relies on presence and responsibility. Contentment is gratitude, the ability to believe that things could be worse and things are getting better at the same time. Contentment is going to Thanksgiving and answering the exterior questions with interior truth. 

The next few months I know will challenge my contentment. Searching for a job, getting over a relationship, seeking inner destiny. A laundry list, for sure. But may I be grateful and content, filled with the Niyama of what is. May all beings be unburdened, unbound, and forever present in all things. For that is Santosha Niyama. That is the birthplace of peace and prosperity. That is what is. Image

 

 

 

Ending a Relationship: Thank You, Buddhist Chef.

Sometimes the all at once is exactly what we need to see what’s right in front of us.

Let’s take a look at what happened to me last week.

1. Finish working on a movie, have wrap party with cast and crew.

2. Find amazing opportunity at a non profit organization. Apply video skills, make friends.

3. Get a day job at a wonderful bakery. More support for creative endeavors, closer to boyfriend’s house. Yay!

4. Celebrate one year anniversary with boyfriend, eat good Italian food.

5. Count blessings, be grateful.

Now let’s look at this week:

1. Have crazy, sudden, massively upsetting exchange with boyfriend.

2. Cry relentlessly while avoiding all contact with boyfriend, as well as Mariah Carey songs.

3. Wander around my house like an invalid, cry large donkey tears. Think things over.

4. Have a breakup conversation at Starbucks. More tears.

5. Count blessings. Be grateful.

The truth of the matter is, catalyst events like these happen in everyone’s lives. But they are meaningful in the sense that they tell us what is working and what is breaking apart. Usually things shift in our lives and we feel rushed by them, like they all happen at once and flood our mental inbox with emotional spam. What happened? Things were going wonderful and then all of a sudden? BOOM!

The feelings that I had at the moment of our breakup were flooding. But the truth is for both of us they were the rush of reality that we had been avoiding. We are wonderful people with love to give, but we can’t live the life the other wants to have. The more I lived my life the worse he felt, and vice versa.

I heard a parable of a buddhist chef. He serves in a diner, and all people come to him for meals. One diner sends him compliments, says it is the best meal he has ever had. He responds “thank you”. The next diner sends him complaints, swears he hates the meal and he will never return. He responds “thank you”.

One thing I learned from my relationship with Brandon was that all things, when present with them, are teaching moments. Even our parting, although extremely painful to pursue. All satisfaction exists regardless of the fact of “we are together” or “we are not together”. We are, and will always be what we were: present and loving with each other and ourselves. And even though our problems are unfixable I am always grateful what he taught me about sustainability. Yes, I learned how to sustain a relationship from one that eventually broke up. Whoa.

So the next time everything is happening all at once? Surrender. Be the chef who serves every diner at the table. Be the one who embraces all things that come to you. Even at brunch, when the wait is long and the food is overcooked. Take whatever people give you and say thank you. Because that is where you learn how to resolve your differences within your soul. Embrace all the chaos and none shall make you suffer. Love your soul above all else and that love shall be returned. And fall for people like Brandon who hold a mirror up to you and force you to confront your dark side as well as embrace your light. They will be your teachers, and you will say thank you…eventually. 

ImageTo Brandon. Thank you, Buddhist Chef. 

 

Baubo and the “Nasty Girl” in Cinema

I am at a party and all the men are staring at me. Not for reasons of looks, apparel or poorly applied makeup, to be sure. I have just had a loud and frank discussion with my lady friend about if tampons were bacon scented. My argument is that if these existed men would have no problem with a woman’s time of the month. You must have bacon to go with eggs, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. My best friend to whom I have presented this theory starts laughing, but obviously I have made an error in judgement: this is not the culturally relevant time to discuss this.

You’ve seen it make a tremendous return to the movies. Melissa McCarthy declares a delicious lack of awareness as to the direction of her bodily function. Rebel Wilson declares “lez-be-honest” and makes a pitch perfect argument. You mostly find these nasty gals in romantic comedies, fringe characters who show up with a memorable inappropriate remark. Ellen Dow, the elderly lady in The Wedding Singer who takes lessons from Adam Sandler, lays down some Sugar Hill gang and steals the spotlight from other minor characters in the film.

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“ You can’t expect him to live forever with his sister and the nipple-twisting that goes on there.” – Rose, the Wedding Singer

Usually these characters are who we remember when we leave the movie because their impulsive language tests our boundaries of propriety. Typically voluptuous, aged, or overly sexualized – these characters say what they mean and don’t care if it’s massively erotic or awkward. They make us feel danger because of what they are saying, but their actions of impropriety make us feel like we want to be around them – these improper women who take us out of ourselves and our expected cultural dimensions.

So what do these women all share? What is the divine story inside them that makes us feel their laughter as our own?

In Greek mythology, there is a character named Baubo that is never truly mentioned in most reciting of the Demeter myth. She is known as the old vulva woman, one who would explore vaginal exposure for a laugh. In short, your nasty gal best friend. She is the goddess of transformative belly laughter, the kind that leaves you in tears. She brings forth the joy that leaves you sore from delight. She is the nasty gal of the spiritual realm.

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Roman Statue of Baubo flashing her erogenous zone. Anything for comedy.

The story goes that Demeter was wandering through the forest, searching for her daughter Persephone. Persephone had been taken by Hades into the underworld, and as a result Demeter, barley goddess of the seasons, created an endless winter with her sadness. Along comes Baubo, seeing the Goddess in trouble. As a way to make her smile, Baubo flashes her vagina to Demeter and makes her laugh. She wipes the tears from her face. Demeter finds the strength to keep searching for her daughter, and carry on through tragedy.

What makes this Baubo figure impactful in cinema? Usually when the lead character is in her darkest hour, ready to give up the fight, the Baubo of the movie shows up and makes us all laugh with her. Before the lead character’s comeback, Baubo appears and breaks wind before us. She breaks dramatic tension with a Betty White frankness, and it is refreshing to the viewer.

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“If I showed you my vagina, would you hold it against me? I didn’t think so…”

Truth is, Baubo represents the locker room discussions that all women have. We are not delicate when it comes to discussion of our lady parts or any other capability that they have. Even the most proper woman on the exterior has felt a tug in her panty hose and wanted to share the story with her friends. Every grotesque part of us is beautiful, and Baubo helps us celebrate that. And with feature films like Bridesmaids raking in 280 Million worldwide? Baubo is needed more than ever.

In that success story of female vulgarity, we get a beautiful pep talk from Megan, the movie’s Baubo. Saving the Demeter figure of Annie from her spiral downward, she lays some truth down. And its something we all need to hear through the ass biting, vagina flashing and tit punches:

“You can stop feeling sorry for yourself, okay? Cause I do not associate with people that blame the world for their problems. Cause you’re your problem, Annie. And you’re also your solution. “

So says the truthful Belly Goddess.

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“Could you lean in a little bit closer? I have a secret…”

Spiritual Journalism

I was sitting in Starbucks last week, overhearing a conversation between an Atheist and a Christian.

Here’s how it went.

Atheist : Point.

Christian: Counterpoint.

Atheist: Strongly worded point.

Christian: Louder Point.

Atheist: Even Louder Point.

Christian: Interruption.

Atheist: Not wanting to offend, but really can’t participate in a rigid dogma that has strict guidelines.

Christian: Not wanting to sound rude, but denial of something that is omnipresent isn’t representing the truth.

Atheist: (drinks coffee)

Christian: (Goes back to typing)

And what did we learn? Everyone enjoys engaging in a vivid debate with people who don’t share their beliefs. But no one wants to learn from the other. Our experiences of our spiritual dimensions are what shape us, and the more we share the better we understand our communication with our higher selves. No one wants to share the stories, only the limitations of a singular mode of celestial communication.

Here is what I hope to do with this blog:

1. Explore spiritual practices, lifestyles and themes. Write about those experiences.

2. Find a connective allegory for those experiences. Create more questions. Make the process relatable.

3. Use new media to chronicle these themes. Share and delight.

4. Highlight some soulful personalities, spiritual explorers and conscious givers in this world. Learn from them.

Here are some of my biases:

1. What practices are “spiritual”?

I don’t know yet, I’ll follow curiosity on that one.

2. What practices are “religious”?

I wouldn’t define this as a religion blog, but I am not discounting parts of religion as a way to trace a story.

3. What practices are “personal”?

I’m a Kundalini Yoga freak and I have an altar. Other than that perhaps my bias stems from our modern fascination in alternative lifestyles.

4. How do you define “soulful” when you can’t define the soul?

Dunno.

Either way, I’m hoping this blog grows into “This American Spiritual Life”. I hope you discover new avenues of connection with your higher self. I hope not to teach you anything, but to entertain and delight your curiosity about different spiritual elements. I hope to create a new path of spiritual journalism.  I hope you believe in the beauty of your soul.

Sat Nam

P.S. Sat Nam means “Truth is My Identity” A Kundalini Yoga Aloha.