This summer I hope to visit the place I scattered my mom’s ashes 26 years ago, near the foot of Neahkhanie Mountain on the Oregon coast. Standing in the wind above the sea, I will be sure to remember this Hopi Prayer.
“Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush, I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circle flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die.
My Spirit is still alive.” – Hopi Prayer
(Rasa is a Sanskrit word literally meaning juice, essence, or taste. It also refers to an ancient concept in Indian arts concerning the aesthetic of a composed piece of visual, literary, or musical work. More specifically, Rasas are the feelings evoked in the reader or audience by the artistic work.)
Your life, this life, not separate. Rather, linked to all others. Are you the creator or the creation? Are you the central character or the chief spectator?
You are the witness, the audience, ever in the throes of each Rasa rising up within you. Where is your Vismaya, your wonder – your Adbhuta, astonishment? Ruled by the strange, the sad, the sharp and cold, the soft and warm. Governed by your smile, tears, the metronome of your heart.
You prepare tea, walk dogs, read books, drink water from a clear glass, and none of these things are ordinary, though often mistaken as such.
The world is at once a utopia and wasteland. I have watched bodies become prisons – the bodies of those I have loved. I have watched minds become solitary confinement. I have watched myself twist and turn, bend over backwards, push on and on.
Sometimes I wonder, will we not truly see one another until after we have passed onward and inward? Such is the light of a star upon the brows of the earthbound.
For many long years, sleep did not come. Now it is here, a sanctuary, an unremembered temple of well-fed lions.
Summer comes, undeniable as the needs of body and soul. We peel away her nightdress, and when she goes we go with her.
There will still be times we do not feel supported by the earth, and contact with it will need to be reestablished. There will still be times when pain holds us in its mouth like a whale, and we struggle to light our way so we might see better in the darkness of its belly.
The sun is rising, now, again. The earth tilts on its axis, and that star is still there, incomprehensible fire of all fires at its center, and the fire moves ever outward, cooling equally, creating a roundness.
We owe our lives to the circumstances of the earth and the sun, to the distance between them.
It is morning and you are held in sleep. I am held in my usual early wakefulness. Calm water has eased my burning. There is soreness in my body, and insect bites on my skin.
I eat up the world, and am eaten by the world. A humble warrior does not forget to bow to all of it.
Let me tell you now how much I will miss you.
Let me not spend another moment wandering the world with words unspoken.
Let me not wait until you are gone, as I have waited with so many now lost from me, and narrowed my eyes as withered chances blew past my flushed cheeks, lifted by a sudden wind, leaves in a wheelbarrow carried back to the place where only a moment before, I gathered them.
As if I were trying to perform a task far too large for me, something to test the bounds of my mortal endurance.
Say yes to storms, stillness, success, failure, silence, noise. Yes to high winds, bitter cold, sweltering heat, crushing loneliness, joyful connection, isolation, liberation.
Yes to the broken and the unbreakable. Yes to the shaken and the unshakeable.
Say yes to danger, safety, pain, pleasure, exhaustion, energy. Yes to the suffering you’ve known and the gifts you’ve been given. Yes to a small and closed-in place, yes to the mystery of limitless space.
Say yes to old hurts, fresh wounds. Yes to your rise and yes to your fall, to effort and ease. Yes to the fields of time and timelessness.
Say yes to all the things you think you could never do or be, yes to anything you’re afraid of. Yes to duality and oneness. In saying yes, you become unstuck. When you say yes, nothing can hold you hostage.
In whirlwind of chilly night, the heart keeps warm and glowing bright.
Who holds this light, I ask of you, that carried forth and greater grew, in burnished gold and silver-blue?
I ask of you who holds this light, in whirlwind of frosty night, however dim, however bright.
Who holds this light nobody knows, only that it softer grows.
Yet soft indeed, the smallest flame
can light the darkness just the same.