On the Devotion of Self

yo la espero y me envuelve,
y así tú, pan y luz
y sombra eres.

(Pablo Neruda, Oda y germinaciones)

 

I’ve talked about the slow viscous drip of winter before, but it lives within me too, permanently hollowed into my right shoulder. A hollow: an inch and a half wide, my labrum separated from bone. And another, my bicipital tendon dislocated above my rotator cuff. The dull roar of pain. If you’ve ever had an injury that involves the bone especially, you know: it’s a tender, unrelenting thing. I think of it like white noise. A crackle of static that dilutes my attention at any given moment. In this pain there is a meditation. And it sounds ridiculous or maybe even masochistic. But when you have to take slow, the passing of time boiled down into a series of motions, there’s a sort of transcendence. Something very quiet in that space despite the static. I don’t know what else to call it.

In the first weeks after starting physical therapy – before I really knew anything about the damage –  I felt like I had broken a wing. I lay face down on a table and practiced pulling my shoulder blades back, relax, back. This was the fundamental motion to be relearned. (Maybe if I flapped hard enough I would lift off the table and fly, I thought.) It was of course not my first time being injured; I’d dislocated my left shoulder a few months earlier. But it was my first time starting from scratch. Like I was learning somebody else’s right arm. It felt foreign in a way that was terrifying. And it was so noisy. The night I dislocated my other shoulder I had cradled it, refused to use it, carried myself defensively. But now it was like doing that all the time. The static in my head dialed up to eleven. Navigating my daily life was a minefield. And yet, in those simple motions, the relearning of the essentials, there was a quiet, a fluidity, a gracefulness, though it must have looked awkward. Each movement was so well calculated that I felt rooted in my self-awareness. As if I moved through a world meant just for me.

Perhaps it is a silly self-devotion, but I find it a devotional act nonetheless. I am so concretely settled within myself, and in my old friend my new shoulder, that I find meditation in my every movement. To learn oneself anew is an exercise in consciousness. It’s hardly romantic: it’s also an exercise in fear, and sadness, and in loss. When you permanently damage your shoulder at nineteen, of course there’s loss. In that inch-and-a-half hollow rests entire meditations of loss, that have lasted unendingly and worn down. Worn down to my unwinged back, to bone. A quiet place. A self-devotion. I pull my shoulder blades back. I am borne, anew.

Work in Progress

As human beings, we are all  works in progress and it is okay to be a work in progress because we are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to have flaws, and as such we need to understand that flaws are not dealbreakers for the Lord because he loves us unconditionally and supports us no matter what. Additionally, I have been thinking lately about how we are all beautiful creatures in God’s eyes, and even when we do wrong He forgives us and accepts us back into His arms with love. One person is not more deserving of God’s love than another, and even though we may not all have the same beliefs, we all deserve God’s love. We are imperfect, but all deserving of the everlasting love of Christ, and for that, we should all be thankful.

the breath in the mouth

In a murderous time
      the heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.

—STANLEY KUNITZ, “The Testing-Tree”

When the sun rises it sings as Udgâtri for the sake of all creatures. When it rises it destroys the fear of darkness.
This (the breath in the mouth) and that (the sun) are the same. This is hot and that is hot. This they call svara (sound), and that they call pratyâsvara (reflected sound). Therefore let a man meditate on the udgîtha (Om) as this and that (as breath and as sun).

–The Upanishads, third kanda

The massacre in Christchurch punched the breath right out of me. I am shattered. I am in a heartbroken solidarity. When a tragedy is so large you cannot swallow it, where does it go? The world is in shock, in grief, over and over and over again. How many times have we had to ask ourselves: What next?

However right now I feel that this grief, because it cannot sit stagnant within me, must be channelled elsewhere, into action, into advocacy. What happens next is what I make happen next. I am bitter sour afraid. For all my Muslim brothers and sisters I am seeing with eyes wide open. I am educating myself. I am wondering, what is my role as a brown non-Muslim person? What is Hindu-Muslim solidarity? What can I do and what will I do? I am questioning, relentlessly, and I am seeking answers. If there are no answers I will create them myself with my own two hands. My breath the sun. An entire world within me. I believe this, that my hands can create, deep in the soil where all life is.

Grief is a powerful thing, so powerful it destroys us, it takes us prisoner, it punches the breath right out of our gut. But in this time a heart lives by breaking, and it is forged again, and breaks again. We too must dig our hands deep into the hard work of carving out safe spaces, no matter what it takes. Ready to break. Ready to put ourselves back together. Within me there is a strength that cannot be laid to rest even in grief. Make no mistake: this is not resilience. This is survival. In the cracked earth breath whistles through.

It is an incomprehensibly murderous time. We are breaking against within through free and we live by this and we will keep living by this, holding steady, digging deep.

Paths and Directions

We all have our own individual paths we are on in life, and though each path is different depending on the person, every path has something in common: the journey. What we might not realize is that the journey we take down our path to get to our ultimate destination is long and winding with both expected and unexpected situations. If we stray from the path, that is okay because it is normal to want to take shortcuts in life. What we all need to get down the path successfully is support and love and guidance, form not only those who we love but also from the Lord, for e knows what is in store for us when we get to the destination.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the path I am on, and I’m in a good place as far as knowing what my future holds (to a degree), however the path I am on has changed somewhat over the years until I grew up and finally realized what I was meant to do. I know that the lord has a destination for me, and only the Lord truly knows what the future holds, but I know that as long as the Lord is with me, I’ll be okay and things will work out. Everyone has a purpose and a reason for living and all need to learn to live a Christ-centered life.  I call us all to live a Christ-centered life and let him guide us down the path we are supposed to go, and follow his directions.

thankfulness and more

We are human beings, and as human beings we all have habits that we fall into. One of these habits is not showing that we are thankful for the people and things that God has blessed us with. We are not bad people if we don’t show thankfulness, it is just a sign that we are not perfect. We are sheep and we all stray from time to time and get lost.  What we need to understand is that we are imperfect and sin in our lives. We all have things and people in our lives that are easy to take for granted if we are not thinking about it. Furthermore, it is imperative that we show the people in our lives who love us unconditionally that we are thankful for them even if we don’t show it all the time. However, we should always be thankful to God especially, because the lord is the one who knows our hearts the best and forgives us for our sins. We must also show thankfulness to the Lord for every day that we are given on this Earth for only God knows how long we have. The Lord blesses us with so much even if it doesn’t show as being very much. I call all my brothers and sisters in Christ to show thankfulness to the Lord every day, even in the smallest ways.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

– James 1:17

Farewell Tour

I remember it like it was yesterday, writing my first blog. Nervous as I typed on the keyboard to introduce that 18 year old has undergone tremendous change in four years. As the last semester of undergrad is underway for me, I can’t help but get emotional as I say goodbye to the place I’ve called home since my first summer at Boston University. You all know my story, a kid with an acceptance that “it is bigger than me.” Over the past four years I have had tremendous success, moments of extreme despair, and having to re calibrate who I am as a human. I wish it was easy, that I can share with you a how to of college, the secret tips, but, I don’t know. As I embark on my farewell tour, my last hoorah at BU. As Student Body President, as the longest tenure Marsh Intern, and as a senior who doesn’t know where he’s really going, I’m going to do two things. Listen and have fun.

I’m leaving behind talented seniors and non seniors and I want to hear their stories. For one last time I want to know what makes them come alive, why they are here. I feel like I’ve done so much talking since coming to BU, I just want to listen. I want to bask in being in such a unique environment, with a plethora of personalities, one more time.

Lastly, I want to have fun. I had my sad boy season, feeling bad about everything I thought and what I did. I just want to have fun and enjoy this farewell tour. I’m surrounded by great people, in a great city and I don’t know when that will happen again.

 

To a final few months of being vulnerable, of choosing to be a better person. and to putting drama behind me and moving on.

Lessons in Queerness

LESSON 1: 

I was talking about my work at Marsh a few days ago with another music student. He told me he didn’t know that I worked at Marsh, and hadn’t foreseen it because I’m a Hindu. I told him that right now I’m working on studying queer theology through an interfaith lens.

“In what world does that exist?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“In my world,” I replied.

There was a lot more I could have added: I never anticipated embracing it myself; I am only just dipping my toes in; it is both an academic and spiritual study. I didn’t say any of them. Maybe, in another conversation with him, I will. But for now I feel small in my knowledge of queer theology, lost, reflective, none of which are conducive to explanatory discourse. I also feel, more deeply than ever, that I am growing. So I embrace it. It is a beautiful thing, this tender growth, like the first unfurling of spring. It is as fragile as any seedling, and as potent as any, too.

LESSON 2: 

Queerness was my first taste of conditional love. It is a powerful thing, queerness, such that people recoil from it. I have always wondered what kind of strange thing it must be, to make a person’s view of you change in a split second, as if you’ve revealed yourself to be an entirely different person. It’s such a vulgar question: if you knew, what would you think? It makes my insides churn.

Within the act of revealing there is inherently a revelation. I claim it unto myself. If I do not, somebody else will use it against me.

LESSON 3:

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Angels in America, Tony Kushner

SEEK SOMETHING NEW, Hannah Pitt says, so bold that it takes my breath away.

As it turns out, people use religious backing to say a lot of nasty things about queer people. The biggest is shame. As if queerness is inherently sexual, naturally wrong, a revulsion, and by extension I too am all of these things. The tiny diya inside of me wavers, a small flame in the wind of the soul. Faith is a terrifying creature, because it implies that I could be carried, but I could also be let down.

When the first two lessons the world teaches you about queerness are conditional love and shame, it is hard to allow yourself the desire to be carried. It is much, much easier to tuck queerness in one pocket and God in the other, and never let them touch. One is ugly and one is pure and I am never quite sure which is what.

Right now? This is me, seeking a thread to stitch them together. Because this is my first step. A belief in that thread. I choose it. I will let it carry me forward.

LESSON 4:

God is one in whom all beings dwell and one who dwells in all beings, the Vishnu Sahasranama says. I believe this. I choose this belief.

 असतो मा सद्गमय ।, I have prayed for years and years every night: keep me not in unreality, but lead me towards Reality. I believe this, too. I choose this belief.

तुम करुणा के सागर,
तुम पालनकर्ता,
स्वामी तुम पालनकर्ता |

You are the ocean of Compassion, / You are the nurturer of everyone, / Swami, You are the nurturer of everyone, says the aarti prayer.

I am so sure that this is unconditional love. I am so sure that this is pride. And I choose this belief. 

LESSON 5: 

I am so sure, unsteady but sure. I learn and I unlearn, I carry and I am carried. And, Lord, let me continue to grow. Inside me there is a relentless spring.

A view on judging others

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
– Matthew 7:1-5
The words in these verses have been on my mind. We are taught by our parents from a young age not to judge others, but as we get older and form strong views and opinions about things, it becomes second nature to tell others what we think they should do and how to live their lives; when they decide to do what they think is best, we judge them for not taking our advice, not agreeing with us, or just for not thinking the same way we do.
Jesus tells us to look at our own sin before judging someone else, and the Bible tells us we are to confront others sin with truth and love in respect. It can be confusing to hear “judge not” while at the same time discern and judge what is truth. Life itself can be confusing, and when we tell someone what we think, a lot of the times, we mean well and have good intentions. However, just because we may not intend to judge someone we still did and we must own up to it as Christians and do what Jesus calls us to do; we must not judge others, and also discern and judge and search for the truth in everything.  That is what we must do as human beings; love all people regardless of whether their opinion differs from ours or whether it doesn’t.  We must love each other in the same way Jesus loves us.

A Stranger’s Sahasranama

Vasuḥ: One in whom all beings dwell and one who dwells in all beings. (Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, 104)

Aprameyātmā: One whose nature cannot be grasped by any of the means of knowledge. (Vishnu Sahasranama Strotram, 248)

I’ve noticed I always begin these blog posts with a quote, a text to reflect on, though rarely is it a religious text. In fact rarely do I find religion in the outwardly religious. Faith is a walk in the dark, Dean Hill said a few Sundays ago, and I believe him. Faith is learning as much as it is unlearning. Peeling layers of culture from religion, self determination from survival, to understand the core of a thing. It’s a tricky, visceral affair. Is religion taught or is it learned? Does the act of learning imply a simultaneous act of teaching? It’s the diasporic instinct, hurtling us forward: I think often of diaspora as a liminal space, an identity translated through space and time, a being and unbeing. Learning and unlearning. My beliefs are patchwork at best.

That’s okay. I’ve come to find peace in the rootlessness, restlessness, a drive to seek out but not necessarily to find. I believe faith is a walk in the dark, Dean Hill, and also that we are always walking in the dark, faith or no faith, as a consequence of the human condition, the pervasiveness of unknowing. We live surprised by What Comes Next. It is dark, and there is always a desire to see. The time is nearing where I must place myself within a tradition, a history…It is in the exploration of the great debates of the Christian faith that I shall find my home,” Demarius Walker wrote in September 2013 and though I never knew him, have no perception of him other than sifting through these blog posts while procrastinating on writing my own, this resonates with me. (It takes some strange ego for me to dissect the words of a person I never knew and take them for my own. So my apologies in advance, Demarius, if we ever cross paths.)

  1. On placing: The business of rootlessness is displacement. Not untethered, but a rejection of tether. (This is also the business of diaspora, I think.) Perpetually a stranger in a foreign land, a dark land, and the darkness is familiar, since we’re all struck with it. We create tradition as much as we place ourselves within it. Forging through: it’s instinctual. It’s a realization. Stagnancy is impossible; even if we do not know what comes next it will come.
  2. On finding: Home is in the exploration. In the intersection, that beautiful and terrible intersection of finding and choosing, of self determination and survival, of faith and contingency. Sit and stitch them together. I love my patchwork beliefs. I carry them with me as I walk. Sometimes they are too heavy and sometimes they are too light. I believe that is not inauthentic to grow any more than it is to find.

Recently I have been carrying with me the thousand names of Vishnu, the sahasranama. They express a sense of movement and indelibility. To ground and to set free. I’ve also realized recently that the fact of god(s) having a gender makes me uncomfortable, so I appreciate that most verses in the sahasranama say merely One. I appreciate the way they feel when I carry them and the way they guide me forward, encouraging both the seeking and the finding. It’s a learning, and it’s also a choosing.

Blessed

As humans, we have a tendency to take the things we are blessed with for granted, in more ways than one. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with us, or that we are bad people. We are all guilty of this and most of the time we get so caught up in our own lives and what is going now with “me” that we forget to think about those around us, those who we know and the strangers that we don’t know. We keep saying we’ll get in touch with the people who love us and care about us, but life, school, extracurriculars, and other commitments  get in the way. What we need to recognize however, is that we all have blessings in this life that others do not have. We all have family and friends that love us and want us to be happy and healthy and will do a nothing for us; there are people in this world that do not have that. We need to recognize that family and friends are blessings that God gave us. Our health is a blessing, and our ability to get a good education is also a blessing.

The fact is that we are surrounded by blessings every day and we sometimes don’t even realize it until were handed something that reminds us how blessed we truly are. Personally, I was raised in the mindset of “count your blessings because there is someone who has it worse than you” and that always resonated with me because you never know what the future holds, and the only one who knows what the future holds for all of us is God, because he created the world. I call you to think more about what you’re blessed with and count your blessings. We do need to ask God to give us an open heart to see the blessings in our life!