I finished the essay about therapy, depression and yoga and sent in the book report on Sivananda's The Science of Pranayama and the karma yoga teaching diary and letters of proof....which means I may actually finally be finished with my teacher traning homework and could possibly "graduate" on Saturday. So here, at long last, a report on Sunday's activites.....
I rode the bike downtown to teach the morning Mysore at YogaNow, then went down the street to Baba Palace ("Water is for Drinking. Do Not Wash Hands Here!") for some palak, naan and chai. Then I rode east towards Millennium Park. At 12:30 it was already a madhouse, and I did not fancy using the free bike valet. INstead I locked my bike across the street, in front of the Chicago Cultural Center, and went in to have a pee. I was treated to the dulcid strains of a live sinfonietta when I opened the front door of the historical building (which used to house the Chicago Public Library and contains one of the largest Tiffany domes in the world). There was no line for the bathroom.
The line across the street to get in to see the Dalai Lama, however, wrapped around the block. Everyone had to go through two metal detectors and -- just like at the airport -- many items were confiscated. A student with pavillion seats told me it took her 1.5 hours to get through the line. Ouch!
But not if you had a press pass. I got in with no trouble and amused myself watching the State Department's bomb-sniffing dogs go over the TV crews' equipment. Then I went in; this was my first event inside of the famous, grossly over budget Frank Geary-designed bandshell, which resembled an artfully crushed can of soda. and despite myself I was impressed. I immediately ran into a student from the Fancy Health Club (his seat was actually better than mine) and wound up next to a Buddhist from Sri Lanka who let me use his binoculars. There was plenty of people-watching, and I could not but help notice that there are legions of good-looking male DL fans with excellent heads of hair. Some local dancers and the DL's Tuvan-like singers opened the program, just like on the tape of the DL speaking at Central Park. Their robes grazed their ankles, and they were all wearing shoes.
The setting, by the way, was exquisite; beautiful sunny weather, a lake breeze, and that crazy bandshell.
Everyone stood up when the DL came out, and he presented white prayer shawls to the local dignitaries -- including omnipresent A&E newsman Bill Kurtis. Then he sat down on a plush chair on a raised platform, his translator in the chair beside him. He talked for awhile and then paused. I saw him take off his shoes and cros his legs, meditation-style. Then he seemed to warm up and talked about compassion, the state of Tibet, how to deal with terrorism, how Bush is a nice guy and how Chairman Mao was also decent and told him that Tibet should indeed have its own flag although they should also fly the national (Chinese) flag. He made jokes. He giggled. He was utterly engaging. At one point he paused, drew his robes more snugly around him and said, "It's chilly here today, no?". But it's kind of sad that he has to come on these tours to promote the cause of the country from which he's exiled. That's why he does these tours. And it's even more disturbing to think about the US's role in all of it, what with opening up trade with China and awarding it most favored nation status (thanks, Bill Clinton). But it was wonderful to see him. He was just a far away presence until I got a good look at his face through the binoculars and immediately teared up. He's definitely the real thing.
That night I decided to see Mother Meera at the 19th Century Club in Oak Park. She is meant to be an avatar of the divine mother, and now lives in Germany. Unlike Amma, her darshan (viewing) is held in complete silence, and you must register online head of time. Instead of hugging, she holds your head in her hands as you bow down, and then you lean back and she looks into your eyes. The instructions about the darshan were very specific and said that you should come with clean hair. I thought "What the hell, my hair is clean." But then I re-thought it; a dozen miles on the bicycle in dirty city air plus two hours of sweaty morning Mysore adjusting do not a clean head make. So before leaving I washed my hair. As the minutes ticked by I realized it would be rude to present her with a wet head, so I actually blow-dried it -- a rare occurance that only happens a handful of times each year. Then I drove to Oak Park -- no traffic! -- which OP native Ernest Hemingway once decribed as a city of "broad lawns and narrow minds." Whatever it is, I was pleased to learn that parking is free on Sundays.
Check-in was on the porch of the historic buiding, and I was ushered inside. There was no line for the bathroom. The event was held inside a large hall with a raised stage; the minute I arrived, so did Mother Meera -- who is tiny and just four years older than I.
I didn't know where to sit -- there were tons of empty seats, although the afternoon programs had been sold out -- and was wandering around trying to figure out where to go when one of the people in white whispered that I should put my shoes under a chair and get in the darshan line. So I did. Just like Amma, you kneel up the central aisle until you get to the stage; then you climb up and kneel and move forward until it's your turn. There was no man-handling. Instead, her assistants were super unobtrusive, and made gentle gestures when it was time to move forward. The silence was wonderful, but my knees started to hurt like hell from the kneel-crawling.
Within ten minutes of arrival, I was able to see Mother Meera. She was wearing a stunning orange sari with a gold border. But it's her eyes that matter. I prefer not to describe what the darshan was like, but afterwards I took a seat and meditated on it until the last person had had their darshan. With very little fanfare, Mother Meera stood up and walked out -- and left me at least with an indescribable sense of well-being.
Not a bad day, really.
And lucky for you, Mother Meera is giving darshan again next week. Details here.