I’ve gotten my feet more reverently on the ground, but alas, not the rice flour. My kolam was a disaster. Rice flour in the air, in clumps, all over my hands… everywhere but in one flowing line on the tile of our front porch. My effort at a ritual mark at our threshold was inscrutable, but I haven’t given up yet. I have decorative colored sand and I’m not afraid to use it!
Remembering to offer a moment of gratitude before I put my feet on the floor when I wake up has been going better. Making my first conscious thought each day be one simple thought of appreciation makes my days flow better, and the benefit is far out of proportion to the effort expended. Still, new habits are as hard to make as old ones are to break, so I had to create a prosaic way of reminding myself. I set my alarm for 6:11 (or 7:11 or even later on the weekends) instead of a more usual time and when I see those two 1’s, I think “straight legs” and straighten my legs out, then swing them out over the side of the bed and just before standing up I quietly offer, “Thank you, Earth, for all of the support you have given me and continue to give!”
As my girls and I were wrapping up our exploration of Hinduism, I passed on one last question to Anu. Larkin and Kyrie had really enjoyed religious historian Huston Smith’s summary of the four primary paths to God that Hinduism espouses for the four basic personality types that Hinduism recognizes. “Some people are primarily reflective,” Smith wrote in his famous The World’s Religions. “Others are basically emotional. Still others are essentially active. Finally, some are experimentally inclined. For each of these personality types Hinduism prescribes a distinct yoga.” Jnana yoga is “the path to oneness with the Godhead through knowledge[,] an intuitive discernment.” Bhakti yoga, the path of emotional connection, aims “to direct toward God the love that lies at the base of every heart.” The third path is Karma Yoga, “the path to God through work.” The fourth path is Raja Yoga, “Designed for people who are of scientific bent, it is the way to God through psychophysical experiments[,]” like meditation and practicing physical yoga asanas or postures.
“My girls wonder if you consider your practice of dance to be more a form of bhakti yoga or of karma yoga?” I related.
“Oh, I think that is a great question!! Out of the two, I would consider it bhakti yoga because it is a devotional practice. Dance, being a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, incorporates several aspects into one! Karma yoga is more service—like volunteering where you help others in need or do some work that needs to get done to help someone out. The word that is often used to describe any such pursuit is sadhana, or a spiritual practice in order to attain a higher plane of consciousness.”
I then asked about this new word, sadhana. “Sadhana is a general term that just means any kind of spiritual pursuit whether it be meditation (dhyana yoga), devotion (bhakti yoga), service (karma yoga), or whatever. In India when people find some kind of passionate pursuit that fulfills their spiritual quest, they explain it in these terms. “This is my sadhana—helping the young girls in the slum or attending kirtan every Thursday or meditating every morning or….” In my case, my sadhana is my personal practice of dance and public performance of it as well. I know that what I do in my personal practice feeds and strengthens my spiritual being and the performance of it is what I know I am here to do—share this depth and lift others through this art form.”
A passionate pursuit that fulfills a spiritual quest. What a beautiful way to describe that sense of “knowing why we are here” that so many souls seek and hope for! I hope this process of studying religions this year encourages my daughters to take a few new steps and to get a little more curious about the particular and unfolding contours of their own paths. I hope they begin to see that each and every step, no matter how small or simple and no matter along what path, is critical to paths blossoming into pursuits and ultimately into passions. Yes, just like the old journey of a thousand miles that begins with a single step. And, begins and begins and begins, again and again. Just like my first two steps each morning of the past week. Fourteen steps closer to a sense of reverence for the Divinity in each day, and in each and every step. Like I said, way out of proportion to the effort expended. Practice makes perfect sense.