Cycles and Their End

One morning last month we woke to find our entire bed of lettuce had been eaten to the ground by a bear and her cub (we saw their pawprints). Also last month, my husband suffered a severe backache, our daughter got a painful sunburn, I had a toothache that caused a fever, and it was over a hundred degrees for weeks together.

after a black momma bear and her cub visited our garden last monthNow it’s August. The lettuce has grown back, all three of us have recovered, and the weather is glorious. Our little garden is prolific, providing lunches of salads and steamed greens, which, combined with dressing and homemade whole wheat bread, fully satisfy us. But this phase will also be short-lived. Soon approaching hibernation time will make the bears ravenous, the lettuce will go to seed, and our daughter will be leaving for her first year of college.

The Gita tells us miseries and pleasures come and go like the winter and summer seasons and that we shouldn’t be gloomy in one and elated in the other but equipoised in both. Although it seems like we’ve been in this world forever, we’re here only for a lightning-strike visit. This place is not where we’re supposed to be.

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery where repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains My abode never takes birth again.” (Bhagavad-gita 8.16)

Ample Space, Divine Opportunities

One of the more noteworthy statements I heard while traveling was, “As yoga enables us to stretch in ways we couldn’t before, so the Bhagavad-gita enables our mind to stretch to accommodate ideas we couldn’t entertain before.”

Recently—and unfortunately—my absorption in the mind-stretching Gita has been disappointing. Although I had great intentions and read the Gita daily, I’ve been preoccupied with keeping my camper functioning, maintaining my stock of books and DVDs, having exchanges and farewells with friends along the way, forging future plans, keeping a wary eye on the weather, and trying to stay healthy and safe.

suburban samenessMy lack of absorption in the Gita may have been due to all that, or it may have been due to my feeling like a zombie after so much driving. Or from feeling suffocated after driving through cities with office buildings and houses so similar I could hardly tell them apart, buildings so close together that children couldn’t play between them.

At Saranagati, where my family and I live, each house is pleasantly quirky in ways just suited to its residents, as if the house and its residents morphed a bit to fit each other well. There’s ample space between them—space that doesn’t separate the residents but draws them closer.

The poet Cowper says the city is made by man and the country by God; perhaps that’s why the mind breathes deeply in the country, expanding to encompass dimensions suffocated elsewhere. And in the country the spirit, stretching toward that unknowable Person who’s within and without, basks in the enchanting freedom of real, divine intangibles.

watching those amazing changes

five life-long friends
Spring 2001: Priya, Gopal, Kalindi, Kava and Rasa
the body changes, the soul is eternal
Spring 2011: Priya, Gopal, Kalindi, Kava and Rasa

 

These pictures don’t show “growing up,” Bhagavad-gita says, but “changing bodies.” At every moment our body becomes infinitesimally different from the previous moment. The cumulative effect of these innumerable changes is dramatic (I’d love to take pictures of Priya and her friends again in 2021, 2031…).

the author of the Bhagavad-gita for children, teens and the rest of us

The more time that passes, the more dramatic the body’s changes, but our essential spiritual nature, the soul, doesn’t change. And that soul, the Bhagavad-gita says, is who we are. 

at 21 Barstow Road, Great Neck, N.Y. with Louise Foord Papert

Yours truly, 1951 and (right) 2011

Sharanagati’s passing seasons repeatedly remind me of life’s inevitable cyclical nature: the gray, short days of winter are brightened by the certainty of a lush spring to follow. In the same way, life’s wintery parts will surely be followed by a welcoming spring. My goal is to be grateful for each day as it comes.

From the Bhagavad-gita: “All of us existed as individuals in the past, we exist as individuals now, and in the future we shall continue to exist as individuals. We were existing, we are existing and we will exist. Only the body experiences birth, death, disease and old age, not the soul within. “