Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Krishna and the Gopis

The Mother's Moon

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It was a summer evening, long ago and far away. On the outskirts of a village, Krishna, the dark skinned, laughing eyed Preceptor of the Universe, Bestower of Boons, Eternal Lord, played his flute as the sun sank in the west. He knew that the milkmaids of the village, the gopis, would hear his flute and heed its call. He knew they would come and dance, come and play, come and be with him in the moonlight.

Sure enough, as each gopi heard the flute she left what she was doing without looking back. Some left dishes still dirty, or butter unchurned. Some even left mothers in mid conversation or food to burn on the stove. The call of Krishna's flute was strong and they couldn't resist, they didn't want to resist.

Out into the forest they ran, into a clearing where Krishna stood with his flute. He was beautiful to look at and each gopi felt he was looking right at them. They began to dance around him, their ankle bells tinkling, their saris waving. He played his flute and the gopis danced. Some waved their arms in the air, some spun in circles and some bent their knees and waist, swaying with the flute music. The flowers decorating their neck and ears scenting the air and the gopis reached for their Lord of All Senses. As they reached for him he reached back, expanding himself to meet each gopi individually. Each gopi placed her hands on his shoulder and Krisna placed his hands on each gopi's shoulder. They smiled at him and their eyes twinkled at him. He laughed out loud, delighted with their delight. They danced and danced, waving their wrists, stamping their feet and twirling in the moonlight.

The bells and bangles of the gopis and the stamping and clapping of hands and feet joined with the singing of Krishna to fill the night. Some gopis twirled their saris, spinning with Krishna. Others sang back and forth with him, or stepped lightly in time with Beautiful Lord. Some clung tightly to him, crushing their flower garlands into his strong chest, while others barely touched him as they danced in time with the music. The singing and dancing, the twirling saris and intertwining arms was so beautiful that the moon paused in her track across the sky to watch. Gentle deer and sleepy birds watched from the edge of the forest. And Krishna and the gopis danced on, each gopi embracing Krishna as if he was there only for her. Each gopi completely satisfied with Krishna, The Soul of the Universe's touch and gaze.

The gopi's faces and arms dripped with sweat and Krisna wiped the droplets from their cheeks. Garlands of flowers lay crushed on the ground as the gopis, one by one, dropped their arms in exhaustion. Krishna, still expanded to be with each gopi individually, led them to the banks of the Yamuna river and poured the cool water over their faces and hands. They splashed him back playfully and their laughter filled the clearing. The gentle wind picked the scent of flowers from the garlands around the gopis neck and the blossoms in their hair and carried it up to the watching moon. Slowly, slowly, the moon sank, the sun began to rise and the gopis rested in the embrace of Krisna, each gopi held tight, held lovingly, held personally by the Endless Compassionate Lord.

This story of the rasa-lila (playful, beautiful dance) is told in the Bhagavata Purana, an ancient Hindu text, is usually used to illustrate the means and the ends of a life of bhakti, or pure devotion. It has been coming to me this month, though, to remind me of god's ability to love all of us, all the time, personally and individually. Krishna expands and holds each gopi in his arms so that they each feel he is there to dance just with them. The Goddess does this for all of us every day, expressing her motherlove for all of creation through her limitless, endless loving presence. It is mind blowing to think of it, really. The Bible says every hair on your head has been counted by God and every tree in the forest knows her love as much as each child does. Multiply that out even by the number of people, trees, birds and babies you know and it blows the mind. Now multiply it out by all the people who live, ever have lived and ever will live. God really is great. And she loves you. Hallelujah!

You can read more about Krishna and the Gopis by clicking on any of the images in this post, or by reading an etext version of the Bhagavata Purana chapter entitled The Rasa Dance.

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Mother's Moon 2009: Gifts from the Mother

Mother's Moon 2010: You Are the Mother's Beloved Child and Motherlove and Caring for the Environment

Mother's Moon 2011: Freedom and July

Friday, July 15, 2011


Full Mother's Moon

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The full Mother's Moon is upon us and so is summer. As I talked about in my Summer Solstice post, this is the time of late nights and early mornings with long, busy, lovely days in between. I feel like I have been set on Energizer Bunny mode and there is no real end in sight. Its an exciting time, a beautiful time, and a crazy time. The Mother is showering us with gifts of fruit, sunshine, flowers and friendship. Do we see these gifts? What do we do with them? What do we do with all of them??

THE meadows s
lumber in the golden shine;
Full-mirrored in the river's glass serene,
Stirless, the blue sky sleeps; k
nee-deep in green,
Nigh o'er-content for grazing are the kine.

The russet hops hang ripening on the bine;

The birds are mute; no clouds there are between

The slumbering lands to come and the sun's s

The day is drowsed with Summer's 'wildering wine.

Peace over all is writ: fought is the fight;

From Winter for the nonce the field is won
And the tired earth can slumber in the sun
And dream her summer-drea
ms of still increase;
Whil'st, as the long rays lengthen to the night,

The breeze o'er all the landscape murmurs 'Peace!'

- John Payne

The weather has been so lovely here in Portland these last two weeks. We've had a couple spells of mid to upper 80s broken up with cooler days. I feel like I have been either opening or closing windows constantly all month to keep the temperature reasonable in the house. I've been camping, hiking, swimming and hanging out on patios like it's going out of style, which in a way it is. Realizing that there are only two more weeks of July and then only 4 weeks of August and then it is September makes you want to run around and soak up all the sunshine and warm weather you can get. Gotta store up that vitamin D and memories of outdoor living for the inevitable gray and wet winter ahead.

The plant life in my neighborhood is showing the first signs of the summer drought. The roadside weeds are clearly no longer in the full flush of growth that they were in three weeks ago. Many grasses are three or four feet tall (and some are even taller) and beginning to ripen their seed heads, adding hints of gold and purple to the green of the medians and unmowed fields. Even the trees seem to have settled out of their sparkling spring green into a more steady summer green. The flashy spring flowers like irises and rhododendrons are past but the beautiful little field flowers are making their appearance in yellows, purples and whites.

And the roses! Portland isn't called the City of Roses for nothing. The area all along the freeway that runs right around downtown Portland is planted in a riot of pink
, red and white roses that are all in bloom right now. I get a flush of civic pride every time I drive it. And of course, the rose gardens at Washington Park and Peninsula Park - as well as every grandma's front yard in the neighborhood - are in full, blossom.

Its a frantic time, these long, warm summer days. It's alright, though, to lean into that frantic energy. There will be
time for rest and sleep in the shorter, cooler days of autumn yet to come. Its hard to think that summer is sliding into autumn already, but its almost impossible not to feel that way. Counting the weeks, watching the grasses turn colors or even noting that the sun is setting just a few minutes earlier each sunny evening is proof positive that Summer Solstice, while the zenith of the sun's power, is also the tipping point into the waning half of the year.

What does July look like where you are? How are you enjoying summer and the Mother's gifts that come with the long days? Is your area known for any flowers or fruit and are they in season right now? Are you noticing the waning of the year already or does it just look like go go go from your standpoint? Are you remembering your sunscreen? Happy summertime!

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Mother's Moon 2009: Gifts from the Mother

Full Mother's Moon 2010: Motherlove and Caring for the Environment

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


New Mother's Moon

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The new moon this month is the Mother's Moon, the moon full of the unconditional, formless, limitless love of the mother goddess. This year's new Mothers Moon happens to fall right around the Fourth of July, a holiday that last year I called the epitome of the Father's Moon energies. I still think that American Independence Day is, at its core, more aligned with the Father's Moon than the Mother's Moon but it is interesting to think about how it embodies the moon it falls in this year.

Freedom is an elusive concept. The dictionary defines it as being exempt from confinement, external control or regulation or the power to determine action without constraint. Many people don't really understand what freedom means because we middle class, 21st century Americans enjoy a level of economic, political, religious and personal freedom that is virtually unprecedented in human history. I just finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy, a young adult science fiction set in a world where people have very little freedom of choice or even thought. The books are so well written that I really had an emotional experience living into that constrictive, harsh world. I actually had moments, walking in the woods or driving down the road, wondering if I was in my world or Katniss' world and fearing that the gamemakers or people from The Capitol were controlling my experience or watching me. Realizing that I was not, in fact, in that world allowed me to literally breathe free. My experience is nothing compared to those of people who have been incarcerated, held captive or otherwise stripped of their freedom but it was enough to make me think about how blessed I really am.

Freedom's conjoined twin is responsibility. Some kinds of freedom - school boys in June, a factory worker at the end of day whistle, a dog in the woods - are the result of a lack of responsibility. Other freedoms, like those of citizens in a democracy, members of a Quaker meeting or adults who pay their own rent, come with a very hefty dose of responsibility. I find it interesting to think that the freedoms from responsibility can only be fleeting. Eventually those school boys need to eat and someone needs to have worked to get the food on the table. Freedoms with responsibility, though, can be very long lasting because the person enjoying the freedom is the person doing the work to maintain it.

I spent some time this week with my friend and her 4 month old twin sons. The babies enjoy existence in a blissful state of freedom from responsibility. Sure, they are working hard to grow and make sense of this crazy world they just got born into, but they don't have to do any work to provide for their own needs. Their mama does all of that. And though my friend loves her new life, she is also acutely feeling the lack of her previous freedoms. Hopefully, the work she is doing now and the freedoms she has given up in this season of her life will lay a foundation of love and trust in her sons so they can move out into the world in a healthy way as they grow. With care and luck, they will have the emotional home base to return to so they can explore the freedoms that come with responsibilities in the coming decades.

Sometimes I wonder about the mothers of America's Founding Fathers. They must have been amazing women. Not only did they raise sons to adulthood in a time when that was a feat accomplished against all odds, and not only did they do it with none of the modern conveniences we think are necessary, they did it so well as to raise men who were willing to make giant leaps into the unknown. Men who were so confident that they were loved that they were willing to take the enormous risk of breaking with all the cultural, political and philosophical traditions they knew. And even if the Founding Fathers' actual mothers didn't succeed in providing that foundation for their sons, someone did. Motherlove, the unconditional love that values you just for being you, is something we have turned to god for all over the world and in many traditions.

This is a big topic, and I can't quite find a way to wrap it all up with a bow. I'd rather end with some more quotes and questions....

Janis Joplin says freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose....

Stan Lee says with great power comes great responsibility....

The second Sabian Symbol I drew for this year, Building a Better Teacher 2011, was A Deserter from the Navy Stands Suddenly Aware of a Dawning Truth: Freedom is Never the Result of Compromise.

What does it all mean? How does one secure freedoms and enjoy responsibilities? How do we nurture the secure foundations of freedom in ourselves and others? What compromises do I need to be careful about? When do you feel most free, most secure, most loved? What does Fourth of July mean to you?

The photos all came up when I searched "freedom" on Flickr. Thanks izarbeltza, _ambrown, The U.S. Army and Nicolo Paternosters. Click on the photos or their names to see more of their work.

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Mother's Moon 2009: Gifts From the Mother

New Mother's Moon 2010: You Are the Mother's Beloved Child