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Aug. 4th, 2010 | 03:57 pm

I haven't written anything since the Amma retreat last month. Now that some clarity is starting to emerge, it seems that I've been quite actively dealing with issues around loss and readjustment and just haven't known how to put the experiences I've been having into words in ways that might seem as if they would help.

This year neither of my former spiritual "buddies" was at the program. That meant less awkwardness and less potential drama than had been the case in the past. In fact, I found that my partner and I seemed to be taking our place alongside the other householder devotees in our satsang. It's less interesting or exciting than the energy I experienced with the spiritually "ambitious" singles I had been hanging out with, but it also tempted me less in terms of illusions and overreaching my situation. I also found that the time I had spent away from satsang over the past year didn't prevent me from having opportunities to do special sevas. In fact, both my partner and I had the opportunity to perform the arati (waving of the "lights" [fire]) for Amma, not as a couple, but on consecutive nights of the program.

The conspicuous absence of my first spiritual "buddy" was explained a few days after the program, when my partner spotted him in a video webcast from the ashram in India. Maybe he really has taken the plunge; maybe he really is going to teach at one of Amma's schools. I imagine I'll find out eventually.

In retrospect, there has been a lot of loss connected with the programs over the past several years, and so I found myself bracing for the programs this year and then feeling confused and uneasy afterward. In 2003, the first year that I went, I was flooded with emotion when my new spiritual friend left to go to India for several months. Now that I've been getting a clearer sense of my grief process as it relates to my mother's illness and death (more on that later), it makes sense to me that at that time I would "fall for" a new friend who seemed to have similar spiritual interests to mine.

One of the manifestations of the grief process when a parent or other significant figure is mortally ill is a spontaneous life review. Although meeting this friend seemed to touch off such a review with almost mystical intensity, it makes a lot of sense that I would have had a powerful upwelling of feelings at the conclusion of the academic year, since I had struggled so hard to "hold it together" professionally all through my first year in my new job, shortly after finding out that my mother had malignant brain cancer. It makes a lot of sense that I would review my relationship to her and how that had impacted my relationship to myself and to other significant people in my life. My new friend seems to have been pretty much just a trigger to facilitate that coming up in a big way.

In 2004, the loss was that, after his return from India, my friend started going through a healing crisis and pulled away from me. It seemed that our friendship was in deep trouble, if not definitively at an end. We had one more spiritual "road trip" left in us that November, but I was already becoming more cautious and starting to pull back because of his instability and inconsistency. The definitive "door slam" came later, in February and March of 2005. Following that I did some hypnotherapy and was somewhat surprised to learn how much rage and existential ambivalence I had, going way back to early childhood and even infancy.

In 2005, my grandmother--the only relative who seemed to understand me and accept me unconditionally for who I was--died while I was at Amma's program. My new spiritual friend at the time alternated between being supportive and trying to scapegoat me for having "negative" feelings around my loss that seemed to threaten to bring him down (aw, poor baby--SLAP that bratty face; SLAP it good!). But I held on because that's what I was in the habit of doing at that time.

In 2006, my new friend was getting ready to go to India for several months, and once again I was facing the loss of someone who had felt important to me, personally and spiritually.

In 2007, this friend had returned but was busy priming a female friend to be his quasi-girlfiend in order to sweeten the idea of his sponging off of her for a place to live. He had less and less "time" to be kind to me, and that hurt. Plus, I was getting psychic hints that my mother's health might be taking a turn for the worse, which it did in short order. I found out, while I was on a short beach vacation with my partner a couple of weeks after the Amma program, that my mother had started having seizures and falling at home. That started happing on Monday of that week, and my father called me about it on Thursday, after my mother had had to be rushed to the hospital. I remember having a distinct premonition, during satsang on Sunday, the day before my mother started falling, that now was the time to start reflecting seriously on the nature of my relaitonship with her (with the implication that I would soon have to let it go).

2008 was the first program after my mother's death, and my spiritual friend was getting ready to move across the country to room with his female friend. He kept busy doing seva, and we didn't spend much time hanging out. It was at the point where, if we spent some time together and I didn't feel hurt afterward, it was a bonus: that's not a good kind of friendship for someone who's in the first year after losing a parent. I was actually relieved when he finally did go a few months later.

I have a little bit of trouble remembering much about the 2009 program. Maybe I was shellshocked by all of the hurt and loss that had occurred in the previous years and was just hoping none of it would recur.

This year I had the feeling that it was safe to let some aspects of myself open up at the program, which I will not allow to open up (for example) at work. I was able to get into it without getting swept away by it, and there were times when I knew I had gotten pretty high on the energy without even being aware of that until I was already there.

When I came back, I hoped to get right back into my academic work and on painting my study, but it's been slow going in both departments. I was kind of afraid that, if I started to open up to feelings again, I might start spacing out and slacking off on productivity. Oh well, it's summer and maybe I need some down time anyway. My partner and I are going away for a couple of days this week (our annual beach jaunt), so hopefully I'll be able to pick up the pace when I come back.

One of the things I did in terms of healing was to have an astrological and flower-essence consultation with someone from the West Coast. My initial appointment with her was for Jul 23, which I realized in retrospect, was the 5th calendar anniversary of my grandmother's death. She missed the appointment: it turns out that she had a family emergency, her assistant was supposed to be in touch but didn't contact me, etc. Eventually we got coordinated and it was a good session. I think it helped me open up to some tender, vulnerable places that I had bene having a hard time accessing, and that it may be good for my healing process to access those places when I can. I'm still waiting for the essences to arrive in the mail. It may turn out that I have availability issues with this particular astrologer, and that if I want to follow up on this kind of work, I may be better off working with someone else. Nonetheless, this work planted some seeds that seem to be bearing some fruit.

She pointed out a particular astrological factor (the progressed Moon) that I hadn't given much though to. It's the kind of factor that may allude to an inner process more than to outer events (such as a new person, a new job, etc.). Tracing this factor back a little bit, I saw how planetary contacts to both the progressed Sun and Moon coincided with the entrances and exits of my spiritual friends into and out of my life. It helped me see how these presences and absences may have stirred up underlying issues of letting go that I may have needed some help in bringing to the surface. Now that my mother is gone, it's perfectly appropriate that these friendships have been "killed off" as well, since they seem to have served their temporary purpose. This helped me come to a greater peace about the situation, instead of my staying stuck in ideas of how, if I had done things differently, if I hadn't fucked up, etc. Instead, I got some clarity around the fact that these people were somewhat desperately trying to use the ashram (the physical ashram or the "travelling ashram" of the programs) to fill in some gaps in their lives. Yes, they could provide some indirect inspiration for me to try to reach out a little more emotionally and spiritually, but "addicts" like this are more interested in getting their fix than they are in cultivating mutually satisfying adult friendships and relationships, and could never be the kind of stable, supportive friends I was looking for.

From there, I started looking at Australian astrologer Darrelyn Gunzburg's book, Life After Grief. I was able to dig in deeper this time than on my previous attempts, probably because enough time had gone by for me to be open to getting a clearer perspective on things rather than to seek immediate relief from painful feelings. This work is ongoing, but so far I have received some powerful insights about my parents, about how they deal (or dealt) with loss, what kinds of patterns I learned from them, etc. I've also seen astrological evidence to support the near-inevitability of clashes of perspective and power struggles between my mother and me. This helps support the idea that I wasn't just stupidly doing things "wrong," but rather that we were both struggling to deal with difficult situations for which neither of us (nor my father for that matter) was adequately prepared by the "guru" which is "life." Sometimes you just have to thrash around for a while until you can't stand it anymore and then, maybe, begin to explore other options.

In terms of other helps in getting feelings to come up, I've been going through another Killers phase. I'm noticing more subtle things about the songs, particularly how ambivalent Brandon appears to be about romance and how quickly many of the songs turn from interpersonal frustration to petitionary prayer and then, maybe, back to personal relationships.

Another head aches
Another heart breaks
I'm so much older
Than I can take
And my affection
Well, it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection
No no no no

Help me out, yeah
You know you gotta help me out, yeah
Oh don't you put me on the back burner
You know you gotta help me out, yeah

When there's nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son?
These changes ain't changing me
The cold-hearted boy I used to be

I've looked online for his birth info, but it seems that his birth time isn't publically known. Nonetheless, it's possible to get some astrological info from what is available. Just for the hell of it, I compared our charts and found that each of his outer, "transpersonal" planets lines up with personal planets in my chart. There's also an exact match between our nodal axes ("karmic" axes) and his Mars is right at the top of my chart, as if to trigger an awareness of a larger perspective on my life. Maybe personal resonances with the work of public figures work this way sometimes.

Another public figure who has been helping me get in touch with feelings lately is the late author Hubert Selby, Jr., whose controversial novels Last Exit to Brooklyn and Requiem for a Dream were made into critically acclaimed films. He has been compared to Dostoyevsky (my favorite "classic" author) for his ability to focus on the seamier side of life and to draw a powerful sense of humanity out of it. I've watched both films and a documentary about Selby, who was a disarmingly simple, humble, frail old man at the time the film was made. It's hard to say how "good" he really was because he was so far outside of the "canon," but he managed to draw something out the people associated with him, and he was unusually available to the directors and actors in the films based on his work. I found a trailer for Requiem. It definitely pushes some buttons, well, for Mama's boys, anyway: http://www.zuguide.com/#Requiem-for-a-Dream

OK, well I better get some shit done.

Om Kali Ma. Om Namah Shivaya. Om Shiva-Shaktyaika rupinyai namaha.

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