STAYING ON THE PATH: RITUAL & MY GURU
I spent early October with my teacher (Guru) Baba Harihar Ramji (Babaji) at the Himalayan Institute. It wasn’t anything I could afford, but I also had to go - the universe pretty much dropped a calling card.
A few weeks before I had said to Nate, “I really wish Baba would come out for an East Coast retreat (he resides in Sonoma and India). My soul is craving some time with my teacher.” A few hours later I opened my inbox, and there it was, “Sonoma Ashram East Retreat October”
It happens like that sometimes.
Off I went, with my husband in tow. It felt important to introduce my husband to this whole part of my spiritual life he didn’t know. I was involved in the ashram for a long time before meeting Nate. I even lived at the ashram for several months where I also received initiation into the lineage. The lessons I learned from Babaji have guided my life and my spiritual practice ever since.
I was nervous about Nate meeting my Guru, and seeing my devotion to someone I consider to be a living saint. I was most concerned about what he would think of me bowing at the feet of man. Certainly, this was a behavior he had never seen me exhibit before. Ten years ago I would have never bowed to anyone and would have been appalled if anyone suggested it. But bowing to your teacher ties you to ancient ritual, it is a simple act of humility and deep devotional respect to someone who is walking the path better than you.
Not only did my husband embrace the experience, but we grew closer as a couple. We chose to our lock our cell phones in the car, and the experience of genuinely being together, without distraction, made us talk… and talk… and talk. It was a good reminder of why we entered this life partnership in the first place.
I hadn’t seen Baba in a few years. He’s always been saint-like, but it still strikes me that each time I see him, he seems increasingly peaceful, calmer, even more connected to source. He radiates love and compassion. His presence fills every corner of the room with light till compassion permeates the air. I described it to a friend as probably being a similar experience to finding yourself sitting next to the Dalai Lama - you want to get as close as you can and linger in that luminosity forever.
Being with my teacher keeps me on the path.
Even though I only seem him occasionally, it is one of many ritualistic things I do to me connect to a greater sense of purpose.
Ever since my involvement in the ashram, ritual has become a huge part of my life. I use simple daily rituals to help keep me focused. I try very hard to treat each day as a gift and an act of devotion. I don’t always succeed. Often I fail, get angry, momentarily lose my compassion for someone, or cut somebody off in traffic. I’m still deeply flawed and human.
But some days, the good days, I succeed, and I go to bed content. The kind of contentment where you can be completely cognizant of the impermanence of all things, and completely okay with that.
We all practice ritual, you just might not call it such. Often mundane daily tasks can be a form of ritual. Washing the dishes can become a moment of ritual if you make the conscious choice to be present with the task at hand. It’s these small moments of sacred presence that keep us on the path.
And what is the path? The journey that brings us closer to our innate divine nature. The true Self, the best Self, the one you work so hard to be.
But the path isn’t linear. It winds and curves, and has big ass rocks to trip over. Trying to “walk the path” means committing to a stumbling practice where you occasionally knock out your teeth. If your work on the path is going along well, you get up toothless and grinning and continue to stumble on your way. A little drunk in love, perhaps.
To quote Rumi, “Be drunk in love. Since love is everything that exists.”
Love alone makes it all worth it. Love for your best self. Love for your need to make the world a better place.
Love. Love. Love.