A few months ago my dear student, friend and hostess in Chile gave one of those backpack purse adornments, a string of dazzling purple and gold hearts, Shri-ed (high beauty) up with golden sequins and bobbles in the Anusara colors. I immediately put it on my travel purse and have enjoyed the deeper meaning of the talisman ever since.
The closing day of Anusara Immersion One in Geneva came fast. It had built up to it’s peak, day five of five straight 7+ hour days, moving our bodies, cooling our minds and cooking our hearts together. A talented international group, Italy, France, Costa Rica, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Israel, the UK and me, the American, were in the house. Three of them were somehow involved with the United Nations and everyone had their unique gifts to offer. Everyone spoke English, and of course the language of Love. The week ended in great awakening, love and friendships that will last a lifetime. Amazing Grace of the community, the kula, the family we choose to walk with on this path of awakening and love.
This Purna Huti (fullness of the Celebration) day, I had taught on the ways we meet challenge, and how we are always held in Grace, it is always there and at any moment we have the possibility of remembering and recognizing the ever presence of Spirit. This is anugraha, the revelatory power of Grace. We are never not connected to Spirit, our center, we just forget, it’s part of the deal of being embodied. We think we are separate and alone. The practices serve to awaken us to the ever presence of Grace, that we are held in Grace whether we recognize it or not. Grace holds us in our breath and in our heartbeat. With time, devotion and regular practice we recognize that we are an integral part of the Ocean of Consciousness, we are the very thing we seek, we are what the Universe is doing. With the knowledge and tools, we can choose how to best move in the flow of the Ocean, learn to get with what is going on in the flow of the Universe. Eventually, we become steady, anchored in a quiet content place, no matter how the Flow is going. We stay centered even when the waves are crashing and currents are thrashing. We learn how to respond from the highest place and make the highest decisions in the face of challenge. We become skillful at living a spiritual embodied life. That's the plan.
We learn to stand steady in our Heart, our core, the madhya, instead of react by being consumed or running away. That is the teaching. Can you stand steady in your heart? Anchored in the teachings? Or do you let yourself be consumed, indulge in the problem or just run away? These are questions I ask myself over and over.
After an emotional Shakti-filled (full of energy) closing ceremony, most of the locals gave love and said goodbye. A few of the international guests and I headed out for a walk around Lake Geneva then dinner together.
The evening was stunning. The last summer rays blushed across wispy clouds, Mont Blanc glistening in the distant French Alps, Le Jet D'Eau shooting into the pale sky, families, lovers and tourists strolling along Lake Geneva’s malecón, soaking up the beauty. We were so lit up from the immersion, each other and the titillating ambiance we piled our yoga bags, day bags, and purses on a bench, and turned to the Lake to take photos.
Geneva and Switzerland as a whole is considered to have practically no crime compared to the rest of Europe. Practically being the operative word. While we were upside down and backs turned, a Bicycle Thief, (not the brew, not a thief of bicycles, but a thief ON a bicycle) buzzed by and snatched my purse. A couple of young Spanish girls alerted us and we all came down to see what was the commotion.
Sure enough my purse was gone. Passport, credit cards, money, iPhone and personal effects, GONE. Under my breath I said, “he stole my purse, oh this is not good.” It was especially not ‘good’ because I had a morning flight to Copenhagen and the thought of missing the workshop stirred me up. We all started milling around to see if we could spot the thief, as if maybe he was dumb enough to stick around, or maybe he would just toss it and we’d find it. Everyone’s face went from ecstatic to very long and somber. I reassured them I'd be fine and not to let this be a buzz kill. I seriously was waiting for the big panic, slug in the stomach, I’ve just been ripped off, sick feeling. What I did feel was the Shakti of my lineage, my teachers and the teachings holding me. The sun was setting, we hadn’t eaten, and there was definitely no sign of my purse or the bicycle thief.
We headed up the Rodeo Drivish lanes of Geneva towards the police station. As Grace would have it I had the kula, one of which was a beautiful French man to keep us grounded and make the police report in Frances. I kept waiting for the sinking feeling simultaneously reassuring everyone else everything would be fine. I was mostly worried about how I would get to Copenhagen the next morning. Clement gave the police the blow by blow in French, which made the whole thing seem kind of glamorous. The policeman, who looked younger than half my kids, explained that if I gave the report to the immigration at the airport, they would give me a temporary passport that I could travel the rest of my trip on. Not sure if it was the language difference, the fact he could have been one of my kids, or that we live in a fearful world beholden by bureaucratic red tape and how could anyone possibly travel across borders without a passport, I was incredulous to the thought of an easy passport fix in the morning.
After all the courtesies and reassurances of the Geneva police, we headed out looking for food. I had no money, credit cards, passport, iPhone, or any thing else, including that pissed off, sinking feeling. I was still waiting to be knocked off center. Instead, wonder, surprise and a bit of dred for all the work of canceling my life via Skype that evening and facing the airport officials in the morning was what the bhava (experience of the moment) was. After dinner when I ordered my coffee and realized they got my vanilla stevia and now I would have to drink my coffee with sugar! Bastards!
It was after midnight by the time I returned and started skyping the credit card companies. I canceled and changed passwords on everything I could think of and then packed for an early departure. I remembered I had a scan picture of my passport in my computer and emailed it to myself to print in the morning to take with me. At least I had that, and the 50 Swiss Francs a dear student gave me.
Sleep was not really in the plan, it never is when I’m teaching. The morning was one Gracefilled event after another. My beloved student/friend/apprentice showed up early. She is always like a sunbeam and I’m always happy to see her. We headed to the airport, and went straight to the police. Unfortunately, the original police dude was misinformed and the only emergency passport available was for Swiss citizens, and I was out of luck. I felt the beginnings of the panic, so I took a breath and we headed to the airline counter.
I went to the SAS customer service and got a very sweet helpful woman who called Copenhagen immigration, explained my story, hung up the phone and said, “okay, you can go. But you must get a passport in Copenhagen, because London won’t allow you in.” Whether it was shock or Shakti or both, I was overjoyed, and on my way to Denmark. Grace.
It was sunny and gorgeous when we landed in Copenhagen. Nanna, the gorgeous Danish goddess organizer for my trip, collected us (European, for picked us up) and I explained the story and that I needed the US embassy. “No problem, it is around the corner, 5 minute walk from where you are staying.” Grace, once again. We stopped on the way, they let me in, took the info in 10 minutes, told me to come back at 9:00 am and it would be taken care of. Where were the lines and bureaucrats?
Still no sign of panic or ungrounded insecurity surfaced. We arrived at the beautiful bright apartment, and I checked my email. There was a message from my son that someone had contacted his father in Mexico and said they have my purse in Geneva. The thief had taken the money and iPhone, leaving everything else and tossed the purse, which was found by a Mexican guy from Tijuana working in Geneva. After a few rounds of emails and Skypes, my purse was scheduled to be sent to the United Kingdom where I would be sure to meet it.
The entire event was one Gracefilled event after another. Even learning to travel for three weeks without credit cards and my iPhone was an opportunity to expand my perspective on resourcefulness too. For me the whole experience was a Lakshmi, (an auspicious mark of beauty). What could’ve been perceived as a Klesha, (stain or blemish, challenge) was ultimately a grand initiation for me. It was a process of my own recognition that the practices and teachings work, that I could be steady in the Madhya (midline, core, center of Being) in the midst of the churning Ocean. The waves crashed, currents raged, and I watched myself stand steady, neither being consumed or pushing away, just receiving what was. One event after another, I did my best to respond in the highest way I could at the time, trusting Grace, trusting everything held as Truth at my very core. What I found, my practices work, the teachings hold true.
I am held in my Heart, Grace (Samsara), with my Heart, with Grace (Anusara), steady in my Heart, steady in Grace (Abhysara). Grace. All this and I have my purse back, purple Shri Anusara Hearts dangling from it in delight, not to mention now I have to get the new iPhone.
...the natural benevolence...
4 weeks ago