Yesterday was my birthday. I’ve always liked the notion of journeying around the sun, an idea taken from a Hallmark card of all things:
Sunny it was, yesterday, and today, and I feel really fortunate to have had a birthday weekend of two exceedingly bright and sunny days, nearly cloudless both times. It is, after all, early spring in New England, and it’s quite chilly, and even a bit breezy.
This is, of course, a joke that I call Michael Franti’s and Spearhead’s song “The Sound of Sunshine,” the pop version of the Gayatri mantra. But its effect was the same to me, a nod to the energy that emanates from our own special star and powers just about everything that lives on this planet. I may be wrong, but I think this mantra is in some way connected to the Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar, a sequence of poses or asanas common to many styles of hatha yoga.
Says Franti of the song, on his website,
“The Sound Of Sunshine” is about wanting to bottle that experience of waking up in the morning, pulling the blinds and seeing that there’s a sunny day in front of us. It’s about finding the sunshine in some cloudy times. There are a lot of people out there waiting for a storm to pass, and I want to try to acknowledge that and bring them a little sunshine. [emphasis added]
Again, this is not the uncritical variety of positivity I mentioned in my last post, but an abiding ability to acknowledge what is in the present moment, which may be both pleasure and pain. How wonderful it is to live in early twenty-first century USA, in good health, in early spring, and in anticipation of celebrating one’s birthday with one’s friends, in my case with an afternoon yoga workshop, and a fine meal.
This is my fiftieth trip around the sun, and a time to take stock. What is it that I will have passed on, not just to my children, but to my students and the many others whom I meet? The wisdom of my teachers and friends, both living and dead, are knit into my bones. This is not mere accident, as what has stuck was fully intended as an offering. What have I to offer?
This is one of many questions that we yogis have the opportunity to explore on our mats. In the confines of these rectangular universes, we struggle within with questions great and small; personal, interpersonal and global. How wonderful it was that Sara Davidson’s workshop yesterday offered to us not only Spring, but its attendant element, water and that element’s related principle of alignment, the expanding inner spiral. How wonderful, too, to be in the company of inspiring friends to sit with the sorrow of disaster in Japan, and to begin to heal from the only place we can truly begin, our own hearts. So sitting, can we fail to develop the compassion necessary for effective response? So sitting, can we fail to develop the competence necessary for compassionate response to be effective? How lucky we are to be able to take this view. How subtle is gratitude, for it to induce us to share.
My favorite translation of the mantra is by S. Krishnamurthy, which I just discovered via Google.
We meditate upon the radiant Divine Light
of that adorable Sun of Spiritual Consciousness;
May it awaken our intuitional consciousness.
May we each bask in what we consider to be our Source, awaken to our own talents, and make of them an offering to the highest, to ourselves, and to others near and far.
Update (5:45 PM)
I have been remiss in failing to mention that today’s service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover, “Paths to God: An Appreciation of Hinduism,” featuring kirtan with John Calabria, was a perfect way to round out my “bhakti birthday.”