A few weeks ago I attended an introduction to the Oneness Blessing (see post here). I’ve been checking in with myself, formally and informally, ever since. I was kind of forced to do it at first because what happened initially was so confusing to me, and I’ve just kept doing it as part of my spiritual and self-care practices. (This is part of the value of regular, formal practice: it provides structure for checking in with yourself so what’s happening inside doesn’t get missed in the busyness of living.)
I noticed yesterday morning that I had gotten what I asked for when I received the Oneness Blessing, even though I could never have imagined, when I was asking, what would happen.
My intention for the blessing was “L’sheim yichud kudsha brich’hu.” I wanted the blessing for the sake of the unification of the holy, blessed One. My request was to be connected with a personal divine.
I’ve been religious all my life, in a variety of ways, and I’ve always held the conviction that there is something greater than the personal self, but I’ve never had any experience of it. I was sure of this as a fact, that there is something greater than the personal self, but my assurance came from inference, not experience.
I have always thought I should have some anthropomorphic figure, a humanized version of this something greater, to whom I could relate. Most of the literature I’ve read on devotion says so and who am I to challenge that? I’ve always imagined that eventually, “someone” would come to me. (Bless my long-time teacher of yoga for consistently holding space for me in which my experience of not having that is OK.) So this is what was in my mind when I asked to be connected experientially to a personal divine.
As I write this, I am remembering the feelings and sensations that I experienced in the days following the blessing. My heart felt achey and throbby. I was teary. My experiencing was suffused with heartache, a kind of aching longing for something. It reminded me then, and still does now, of the poem The Reed Flute’s Song (excerpted from Coleman Barks’ translation in The Essential Rumi):
In my journal, I wrote at the time that the feelings I was having were almost like when you’re upset, really upset, just longing for a hug, wishing the person in front of you would reach out their arms and enfold you, but at the same time afraid of what would happen if they did, and you got that hug you’ve wanted so badly.
It’s an overwhelming, confusing experience of relief and pain and opening and more, all mixed up together. It’s not exactly nice, although there are nice things about it. I could never have known when I wrote this in my journal 10 days ago, how true it would be: Getting what you want is almost too painful. Even as I write it now, the hair stands up on the back of my neck.
I didn’t know what was happening. A kind friend pointed out my heart was opening. She was right.
Sitting today to write this, I’m inspired to cry about it more, to open my heart, let it fill with longing, see it red and throbby. I’m inspired to let the sadness and longing in, to allow the reed flute to make its plaintive song. This is the direction I’m being given about my bhakti practice.
My insides remind me that this is similar to what I felt when my beloved husband was far away, across an international border, and how painful it was to be separated. How utterly despairing I felt not knowing if or when we would ever see one another again because neither of us was ever sure we would be allowed across the border when we were headed to see the other. It was too much. I didn’t want to feel that.
In a way, this is too much. I don’t want to feel it. But it’s the blessing. The connection is in the longing. I can feel the presence of what I want entwined in the very longing for it. It’s a confusing and very strong experience of relief and pain and opening and more, all mixed up together.
I think this is what my yoga teacher was getting at when I told her I was committing to bhakti and she told me to read Chasm of Fire, by Irina Tweedie. Bhakti is not only the flowy, unconditional love experience, like I’ve had many times before, of being in the flowing of loving, feeling loving flowing through me, independent to of external circumstances. Bhakti is also painful, bloody, throbby, juicy, teary, and heart-wrenching. Anyone separated from someone they love understands what I say. I trust totally in love. I trusted totally in the love of my dearest beloved husband. I could feel his presence across the distance as I longed to be with him. This connection is like that, except without the despair.
Before I asked, looking ahead and predicting what would happen, I could never have imagined this. I could never have imagined that this “pain”—a sweet, bittersweet kind of pain that is nevertheless painful, and that takes a conscious surrendering to, and that can be overwhelming, and that I don’t want to feel—is what I would receive when I asked for connection with a personal divine. If I had, I don’t think I would have asked for it. But looking backwards now at what has happened, it makes total sense. It’s the next logical step.
This reminds me of an important lesson: in order to receive what I asked for, I need ways to pay attention to what comes. My predictions of what I will get when I ask are not how things actually turn out. When I run with the assumption that, if it doesn’t look like I imagined it would, I didn’t get anything, I totally miss what’s actually happening. I’m receiving what I asked for, but unless I’m paying attention, I miss that. Not checking in is like ordering something by mail, then forgetting to check the mailbox. I’ll never get the package unless I actually go to the mailbox. It could be sitting right there and I would never know.
In addition, the act of paying attention allows for more unfolding. When I sat down to write this post, I had planned to write something completely different than I actually did. It was only when I dropped that plan (that wasn’t really working out) that the writing flowed. I didn’t know that what would come is this awareness of the depth of the gift I’ve been given. I didn’t know the inspiration to open my heart and cry more would come. But now, having made room for it, I know that is the next right step.