Thursday, December 4, 2014

December 2014 - A $2 Cushion

A $2 Orange Pillow   

It's almost impossible to get through December without thinking about the holidays and gift giving.  But how many people remember what they got for Christmas last year, or Christmas a few years ago?  It's not that the gift had to be memorable.  Instead, maybe it's because gift giving has become like eating - just something one does.  I was like that myself, until one day in India when I realized, trite as it may sound, gift giving was more about what I was receiving.

I went to India on a three-week pilgrimage with a spiritual group intent on meditating in holy sites, visiting temples, and doing what we could in the slums of India. It's a country of two billion people that assaults the senses on every level. The cultural adjustment is immediate.  Upon arrival, the sights, smells, sounds, pollution, heat and humidity are overwhelming, yet there's a noticeable current of serenity amid the noises of traffic, the endless horn blowing, and the people and cows walking the overcrowded streets. 
India is also a land of contrasts with designer stores on paved foundations flanked by small shops on dirt pathways selling inventories of single items like thread or tin pots.  Our boutique hotel, complete with a uniformed doorman, shared a lane with squatters living in the dirt under rotted tarps supported by tree branches.  Some of the dwellers lived in the shells of rusted out cars.  A few shared a patchwork hut of corrugated cardboard with a galvanized awning that was considered a luxury.  These living conditions, prevalent in the country, defy comprehension.

Because we sat on the floor of the temple during meditations several of us needed to buy a cushion.  Our hotel driver Salim took us to a local seller because he felt the designer stores would be horribly overpriced.  He was right.  We bought four cushions for $8 whereas the cushions would have cost $25 each in the designer stores.  It was then we learned from Salim that a good wage in Delhi was $20 a month.
Before leaving Delhi for northern India we had to lighten our luggage so I wanted to give the cushion away.  I'd seen the woman who lived in the dirt under the tarps.  Every day she cut fresh tree branches to support her decaying roof.  I'd walked past her dwelling several times, noticing only a small candle for light in the dingy interior.

Not knowing what protocol to follow I went down the lane to give her the cushion.  I was stopped by the uniformed door man who did not speak English but clearly did not want me to walk down the lane.  Our pantomime of flailing gestures summoned an elderly man who came out of the dwelling to see what was happening.  He spoke English so translated for the doorman what I wanted to do.
All of a sudden the doorman began to tear up as he moaned in Hindi.  He put his hand over his heart and kept shaking his head.  The old man translated for me what was happening.  It seems the woman I'd seen cutting the tree branches was his wife.  This job he held was the sole support of an extended family living under the tarps and cardboard.  He too lived under the tarps, appearing at the hotel daily to shower and put on the hotel-provided uniform.  He was crying because no one had simply given something to him or his wife before and he was overcome with emotion.  The old man who I learned later was his father, put his arm around the uniformed man's shoulder and both of them cried as they hugged the orange cushion.
In that single moment I understood the impact of what he said and tears welled up in my eyes as well.  This was India, where people living in the dirt under tarps could never afford a $2 orange cushion.  This was India, where a $2 orange cushion that I could have easily tossed away, had caused a grown man and his father to cry with gratitude.  This was India, where upon my return to Delhi, walking past the dwelling one night, I saw a $2 orange cushion glowing in the candlelight of the otherwise colorless interior.

This was the gift of a $2 orange cushion.  But the gift was in receiving the unheard of gratitude and heart-felt smiles from street dwellers who saw the cushion as a beacon that someone cared.  The gift kindled a visceral appreciation for the bounty we have in this country and often take for granted.  The $2 orange cushion memory stays with me every day, but it's especially magnified during the Christmas gift-giving season.   
Jo Mooy - December 2014  

Calling Mother

Calling Mother
"Mama!"  It's the first word a child says.  And, it doesn't matter what country the child is in.  For the baby-babble term for mother is the same in China, Poland, Africa, Peru, Russia or the US. When a baby wants something it cries out for Mama.  When it's anxious it sounds Mama.  When it's happy it beams Mama.  For the child, Mama is the center of its world.
On a recent foray to the grocery store I was watching a year old baby interact with its mother.  The baby was content to chew on a toy, but every so often she looked up to insure that connection with her mom was still there, by saying, "Mama!"  Each time, her smiling mom bent down to the child replying, "Yes, Emma" which elicited a giggle from the baby.

It was a simple interaction, but one that caught my attention.  What was this gentle checking in with mom?  What memories or needs were being activated in the baby?  And why was the mother being summoned and not others around the baby? I recalled the teaching of a Sufi mystic.  He said look beyond what was appearing and you would find what was actually transpiring.  So I did.
What was appearing?  A baby was periodically calling to its mother who was answering it.  But what was transpiring?  It was trust.  The mother was the source of the baby's well-being.  The mother was the individual with whom the baby identified, called it "Mama" and she trusted that Mama would hear and tend to her needs. But something else was transpiring.  The baby's connection with the mother was a metaphor of humanity's connection with source.   
Somewhere between childhood and becoming an adult many have forgotten how to Trust in the Mother Source.  They've also forgotten how to contact it.  Sadly, when we most need it, they've forgotten how to contact Her.  This disconnection is especially true given the nightly news barrage of misery around the world.  On an evening walk my neighbor commented that everything she saw on the news was so upsetting it was making her sick to watch it. I asked her if she could do anything about what she saw on TV.  She didn't think so.  I suggested she pray for everything to work out.  She thought about it and said, "I forgot I could do that."  

There is great healing in Trusting. It's an emotion that causes us to believe things will work out and get better.  It empowers us, helping us to feel safe no matter what we're experiencing in life.  Trust teaches us that it's going to be better in the morning.  So when we see these horrific things on TV that inscribe fear or pain in our hearts, we can Trust in the Divine Mother's care.
The great Bodhisattva Quan Yin, Mother of Compassion, gave up nirvana until all her children were saved.  She is the ultimate "Mother of the Universe" or "Mama" that we can call and who promised to hear our cries.  This Great Mother said no matter the trial or tribulation, if her children called her she would take the form needed and come to their aid.  And so the stories of her help are documented all over the world.

So when you're watching the nightly news, or see something that distresses you on TV or Facebook, or anywhere you go, think about "Calling Mother."  She said she would hear every cry.  You can Trust that promise and for that matter, Trust that everything will work out.  For as we look at what is appearing, something much greater is transpiring.  Behind it all, the Divine Mother is working her promise.  It may take a tad longer than we think it should, but Mama hears our prayers!

Jo Mooy - November 2014