Navaratri, Disparity and the Horrors of White America


I have been told many times that politics has no place in Yoga.
I disagree.
My teachers were always active against injustice and working deliberately to elevate the mind (not just their booty).
Navaratri is the 9 day celebration of the goddess, and during my time both in India and at the ashram, it was something that spoke to me deeply
(though I claim no faith/religion).
Be warned ~ this is political, this is real, this is in no way an attempt to appease.

This is a prose piece about how I spent Navaratri this fall, 2017

Navaratri, Disparity and the Horrors of White America

Day 1

It was the second earthquake that broke me.

As if the Koreans launching missiles like toys over Japan, #45 destroying national monuments, republicans attempting to annihilate healthcare, Hurricanes slamming the islands, another white cop going free after murdering a black man and the first earthquake, wasn’t enough.

After having dinner at Maya, and watching a white customer condescend to the lovely Hispanic owner, I got into my car just as NPR was announcing the second earthquake to hit Mexico,

and I broke.

Not open, like some cosmic face book fairytale.

I just broke.

Almost a year ago, last fall I walked through the Atlanta airport on the day of the election and I stopped breathing. And I don’t mean I had some out of body experience with death. I mean, my chest curled in on itself, and even when I consciously tried to breath anything but a shallow sip, it not only hurt, it was impossible.

I saw our inevitable desire to hurl ourselves off the cliff, as the states were called in his favor. I looked around the airport, at the all black jazz quartet playing Miles Davis, the swarm of faces and colors from all over this planet, and I was slammed with the disgusting thought ‘What if we were all white? All Christian? All American?’

What if the Nazis had their day and wiped the earth clean of everyone but their so called ‘superior’ race.

No more Coltrane, no Maya Angelou, no awareness that as a teen I was a caged bird, trying desperately to sing. No Mingus rewiring my insides with a force of light so brilliant that I was no longer the same. Joni Mitchell would not have gotten past Circle Games or Clouds, and there would be no dream of the visionary Dr King. No Malcolm X or Muhammad Ali willing to stand as warriors. Cochise and Geronimo and Crazy Horse would not breath inside this desert wind, would not run up and down my spine daily, reminding me I am not, and will not ever be, just a passive buddhist yogi, piping out cliché phrases like Namaste and time to pray. Instead when I touch my bare feet against this dry earth and lay naked against coarse granite rock, they remind me, always, that I am a warrior first and this earth is my blood. Antonio Sandoval and Dizzy Gillespie would never have had the chance to turn Cuba upside down with music so funky and sublime, people had to get up and dance. People would not know how to dance. Pablo Neruda would never have asked us, just for one day, to be still, to stop fighting, to stop. And Gabriel Garcia Marquez would not have entered my dreams, shadowing all that I thought was real.

Pale, Dull, Boring
and White.

This morning I woke to the first day of Navaratri, chanting to Durga. In my own way, I offered incense and prayers and honored the fierce mother warrior. I thought of the ashram and missed the group gathering in the temple for puja and prayer, and I was reminded of how dull this day would be if I had to sit in some sterile white church to ask forgiveness.

Mother Mary sits on my altar, adorned with rosewood mala beads and a medicine bag I received from a Sun dancer. Ramakrishna is laughing. Copal from Belize, Frankincense and Sandalwood from Nepal and White Sage from the desert, burn slowly before the mother goddess, in her multitude of forms.

I recognize the ground as her body.
I lay against her, to rest.

Day 2

Durga mother please remind me of your fierceness. Let me not be a coward in the face of injustice.
Help me be the light I am

Historically we Americans live in a collective amnesia of ignorance, of what truly occurred on this soil.

There is this crazy idea that a white guy came along and claimed empty land for his own, and inherently, we are all meant to be Christian. This idea translates into us being divinely racist and the deportation of anyone that is a slight shade darker or different.

Did it really say somewhere in the bible that it’s our sanctified right to own handguns? That it’s okay to hate people of color? That a man has a rightful claim to my womb?

Mother Durga I know we are the elements.

This earth speaks to me daily, warning me of coming hurricanes and Tsunamis, with the fiercest migraines I’ve ever known. Telling me of earthquakes thousands of miles away, when I can’t walk straight, stumbling into the fence.

I know when the earth is ill, so are we.

I also know that within each seed and herb and plant lays the essence of you to heal us.

Blessed are the midwives, the witches, the healers and the mothers. Blessed are the men who remember their goddess.

Blessed are we, only when we become you ~ the fierce mother goddess who cuts off the head of ignorance, who protects this earth and the dharma we stand on.

Day 3

Is it enough to lie on the floor before this altar and pray?

Day 4

Today begins prayers for Laksmi, the goddess of love and beauty.

I lay in bed late and gently run my hands down the long back of my lover, my husband, my friend.

I know how blessed I am.
I know how long I have waited for him.

Day 5

Puerto Rico is drowning and #45 does nothing. He has to be reminded that they are part of our country.

Meanwhile the NFL takes a knee, and people go wild with their sudden demand for respect to a flag worn as underwear, t-shirts and bandanas.

Yet another example of collective amnesia.

What will it take for you to wake the fuck up? What will it take for people to stop ignoring the genocide of black men in this country? What will it take for you not to be a coward, as you collectively stomp your feet and wave your arms in the air, for what you call disrespect to a piece of cloth, while men are murdered in the street?

Day 6

I touch the earth and try to take a deep breath

Day 7

Home late from work, I begin to light candles all around the house ~ the tea lights and incense, fairy lights and salt lamps. I wave camphor before my altar on this night of Saraswati ~ Goddess of knowledge, and I beg her to send just a little light of wisdom our way.

In this time of darkness, this glorification of stupidity, this hatred towards intelligence, I call for any and all beings of light to lift their consciousness, even a little.

I find sanctuary in the thinkers, the sages, the physicists, the poets and teachers

The ones that strive to elevate their minds.

Day 8

Mark Twain, Einstein, Edward Abbey and Thoreau
Karl Marx, Shankaracharya, Eleanor Roosevelt and Anne Frank
Winston Churchill, Stephen Hawkins, Gloria Steinem and Tagore
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Marie Curie, Tolstoy, Emerson, Kierkegaard and Camus
Nikola Tesla, Ramanujan, Vivekananda and Rainer Maria Rilke
Malala Yousufzai, Rosa Parks, Rachel Carson and Sappho
Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Buckminster Fuller, Georgia O Keefe

Amadeus Mozart

My mother

Thank you all for being a beacon of light and brilliance in this dark mad world.
Thank you for using your mind.

Day 9

I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light…

I repeat this mantra emphatically, desperately, as I feel myself collapsing
beneath the weight of darkness.

Epilogue ( 3 days later)

Today people continue to protest the NFL for speaking out and kneeling down against injustice, and yet, never once do they speak out, or about, the actual injustice. #45 continues his pissing game with Korean leader Kim Jon Un and Puerto Rico continues to drown. Concert goers in Vegas are gunned down, by yet another white man, and the congressmen who back the NRA, send their prayers. 58 dead and over 500 wounded by a man shooting upgraded rifles out of a 32nd story window at the Mandalay Bay Resort. The NRA remains silent.

Riots erupt in Catalonia. Egypt orders 30,000 weapons from North Korea and the Cholera outbreak in Yemen escalates. Persecuted Muslims are still fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh and suicide bombers just hit Damascus again.

There is no way to wrap the mind around this reality we have created.
And we have created it.
All of it.

There is no God or Devil to blame. We are it.

Last night I wept and wept and drummed and chanted and offered what little light I had left.

This morning, I awoke sick, heavy hearted and sobbing.

We chose this. We chose this horrific insanity and inhumanity.

If there are angels, I beg them to show themselves now.

If Durga is listening, I ask her to hold me close, while I stumble hard on this bloody path
some call evolution.

If there is some small breath of love in the heart, some tiny spark within the mind
fan that flame wildly
don’t ever stop.

Hold on dearly and fiercely, as we are thrashed about, by this enormous, crushing wave of despair.

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