The Magic of Arunachala: Kali, Aghori & Unconditional Love #6/6

image-11What, in the first place, is unconditional love? Each of us is likely to have our own special definition of this phenomenon, while Google would likely manifest a gazillion definitions in about three seconds flat.

For me, as I write this post, it is that perfect love that flows freely minus the expectations of the ego (mini-me), love without strings, love that seeks nothing but the welfare of the recipient, love that surges effortlessly from the infinite abundance of our true nature—not the raucous, limited, limiting, clamoring, two-legged “love” that dies, shrinks or withdraws when its conditions are unmet—or even worse, the so-called “love” that turns into vicious hate when not reciprocated—as when a spurned lover throws acid on a pretty girl’s face, or a jealous husband stabs his cheating wife to death. As Will Shakespeare said so eloquently so many centuries ago, love is not love that alters when it alteration finds.

What about the love of a mother for a beloved only child? A grieving mother ready to trade her life for that of her daughters—as Chloe had claimed she’d been prepared to do, so long ago in Manhattan? A mother who makes endless sacrifices so her child may flourish? Through my particular lens, while this is most certainly a refined form of human love, it does not even begin to approach my ideal of unconditional love—for the love of a biological parent is, after all, a heightened form of egoic love. Think about it dispassionately for a moment—would Chloe have been willing to surrender her own life for Amelia had Amelia been born to other parents? Unlikely, huh? Continue reading

The Divine Canines: Kali, Aghori & Unconditional Love #5/6

image-9Even more water flowed under the bridge of my life. A decade or so later, without really meaning to—after all, woman proposes and Great Spirit disposes—I found myself in Tiruvannamalai, a famous temple town in south India. Despite a never-ending series of trials and tribulations, I decided this would be the home I’d been looking for—for the simple reason that I felt strongly that it was here that I could pursue my “Moksha Project”. (“Moksha” means liberation—defined by Ramana Maharshi as “permanent freedom from desire and fear”—and, in my opinion, the highest goal to which a human on the inner path can aspire.)

My new home was being built and I was looking forward to the prospect of cultivating a garden and adopting animals. So when my Latvian friend offered me two gorgeous pups of Himalayan origin, I leaped with joy.

The pups—whom I named Kali and Durga after my favorite Indian goddesses—won me over instantly. Tragically Durga was attacked by a deadly virus when she was a few months old and dissolved back into the elements;  which left Kali, whom I almost lost as well. As I nursed my adorable jet-black fur-ball back to health, I processed the aching grief and guilt I felt over Durga’s passing. Continue reading

The Wisdom of Bear: Kali, Aghori & Unconditional Love #4/6

image-7The years flew by and our group of fantastic females disintegrated. Some left Manhattan or began new lives that did not allow for the intimacy we’d shared as single women. As for me, I took a huge leap into the unknown at the eve of the millenium: I left my comfortable life in Manhattan for the foothills of the Himalayas in order to become a good Tibetan Buddhist. But that plan for enlightenment did not work out for a variety of reasons, and once again I found myself travelling here, there and everywhere, searching for that perfect home into which I could settle for the rest of my life, in order to focus on my creative and spiritual goals.

At one point, this search led me back into America, where I met a man whom I believed could evolve into the perfect mate for me. But soon I began to see ethical flaws in him that my rose-colored spectacles had initially masked.

While I myself am no masterpiece of humanity, I at least acknowledge that I am a work-in-progress composed of—relatively speaking—both good and bad; this fellow, however, hid his flaws beneath a million masks. As my vision cleared, I began to see a narcissistic and slippery man with no true respect for women and who suffered from the cardinal sin of emotional and material cheapness. Continue reading

Circle of Light: Kali, Aghori & Unconditional Love #3/6

image-5It was twilight by the time the entire group had assembled in my Brooklyn Heights apartment. We sat in a circle on the floor of my candle-lit living room and held hands in silence in order to create the perfect atmosphere for sharing. Then Melissa produced her Talking Stick and a mantle of awe fell upon us—for the polished wooden rod really did seem to exude a magical aura all of its own.

As hostess, I explained how we were going to use the stick to explore the concept of Unconditional Love. A few groans were uttered, which subsided under a volley of glares from those who took our sharing mucho seriously. Briefly I spoke of the high ceremonial and spiritual value of such a stick in the context of aboriginal democracy—that a Talking Stick is passed around in a group, or used by a leader as a symbol of his/her authority. Only the person holding the stick is allowed to speak—a wise custom that allows all participants to be heard, including introverts. Consensus can force the stick to move along to assure that the pedantic and long-winded don’t dominate the discussion, while the person holding the stick may allow others to interject. Continue reading

The Talking Stick: Kali, Aghori & Unconditional Love #2/6

image-3My turn to host our fortnightly gathering rolled around. I wanted to make the evening truly memorable, but how? Out of the blue, Melissa—a member of our  group who lived in nearby Carroll Gardens—called to invite me to watch a documentary with her. Bored with her job as assistant editor at a fashion magazine in midtown Manhattan, Melissa had begun to explore all forms of spirituality with a vengeance; it was our shared passion for mysticism that had drawn us extra close.

That night we munched on pizza with extra cheese and peppers and goggled at the documentary: an exploration of the life of a powerful shaman in Brazil. Afterward, Melissa showed me an amazing gift she’d received from the guy who’d lent her the documentary—a journalist back from a trip to a sacred spot in South America where shamans still held sway. Continue reading

A Goddess Mandala: Kali, Aghori & Unconditional Love #1/6

image-1During my post-divorce years in Manhattan, I grew close to a band of unusual women ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s. Some were freelancers or regulars at the posh corporate law firm for which I then worked; others I’d bumped into at some cheese-and-wine affair that trendy Manhattanites throw in order to compensate for a crazy work-week; still others I’d encountered through the 12-Step program, whose meetings I attended in order to eradicate the insidious smoking habit slowly but surely draining my life force.

Going to AA to deal with a smoking addiction, you demand incredulously? But AA’s for folks with alcoholic dependency, ain’t it? True, AA was originally designed for the alcoholic, and yet liberal Manhattanites were open to a wider definition of addiction. In those often dark and stuffy spaces where addicts and alcoholics of all ages and backgrounds converged in order to keep each other sober, I found myself welcomed, sponsored and loved—until—as the popular saying goes—I was able to let go of my crutches and begin to love my unique self. Continue reading