Is My Path Taking a Turn?

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My favorite joke, and the only one I ever remember, is: Q: Do you know how to make God laugh? A: Tell him your plans for your life.

I think that is so true. There have been many turns in my life that I would have never predicted. If someone had told me those changes were coming, I would have said they were crazy. The most notable example is my relationship with Amma

At the time I met her, I had described myself as being somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist for 20 years. In those days, even hearing the word God made me feel sick to my stomach. I was a very logical, head based person and had no interest in spirituality or spiritually minded people.

In 1989, a new friend told me there was a woman saint coming to Seattle soon and invited me to attend her programs. My mind said NO but what came out of my mouth was OK.

My whole life changed the night I met Amma. Six weeks later, I was at her New Hampshire retreat and six months later I was in India. I have gone to India 26 times since that first visit. I have had other life plans change in unexpected ways since then, but none were as remarkable as that one.

On May 31 of 2017, I “plan” to retire. That is the time of year that Amma begins her annual North American tour so I have “planned” to attend some of those programs and then go to Amritapuri from mid-August until mid-January. I don’t remember when I developed this “plan”, but I think it has been firmly ingrained in my mind since I was in India this time last year.

One day in August of this year, though, I woke up thinking that I wasn’t going to watch another tree in the lot behind my house die. Al,  my former husband, and I had bought that property in 1973. I sold it in the mid-80’s and it changed hands again about ten years later. When Seattle formed the Cheasty Greenbelt, that owner sold it to the city.

The property was originally beautiful but none of the subsequent owners did anything with it, so blackberries, ivy, morning glories and bamboo took over. Smothered by the invasive plants, many trees died.

After I had that early morning thought, I grabbed my shears and started to work. I enlisted my friend, Ramana, to help clear some of the land. While Ramana worked on the major clearing, I focused on freeing specific trees.

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I found so many beautiful and fascinating things on the land and know that there are many more buried under the remaining blackberries.

One day, it occurred to me that we could make this project a GreenFriends project. (GreenFriends is the environmental arm of Embracing the World, Amma’s network of humanitarian projects.) I called the people in our satsang who have coordinated our tree planting and habitat restoration work in the past. They were very interested in being involved. In October and November, they spent some time working on the lot with me.

We also talked with the Green Seattle Partnership about becoming one of their volunteer groups. In March, we will take the Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward orientation. Once we do that, we will be able to host larger work parties.

Our project will be supervised by the Seattle Parks Department and the city will provide the saplings and other greenery that we will eventually plant there. The Park Department will do any work that requires power tools. If there is enough interest in the project, we may decide to clear all four lots that are in that strip of Greenbelt!

I feel a great deal of passion about this work and it has been on my mind since I’ve been in Amritapuri. Even before I left Seattle, it occurred to me that August and September would be prime time for working on that land and if I was in Amritapuri, I wouldn’t be available to organize the work.

I have an ever growing sense that I won’t be going to Amritapuri in August and that my path is taking a turn that gives working with nature more priority than spending extra time in India.

Starting last week, I found another thought creeping into my mind. I have kept close track of world events via CNN throughout this trip. I’m beginning to wonder if I will even make it to India next year. It seems like there is so much potential for war.

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My years with Amma have taught me a lot about staying in the moment and not holding on to  plans. They have also taught me that Amma will hold me close to her no matter what comes my way. I trust that my life will unfold as it is supposed to and acknowledge that I have no idea what that will look like. What I do expect is that I will be participating in at least part of the Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu chant for world peace that will be held in the Amritapuri temple from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on January 1.

Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings in the world be happy.
Peace, Peace, Peace

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Path

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

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20 thoughts on “Is My Path Taking a Turn?

    1. I’m glad you enjoy reading the posts. I treasure that photo. I got it from taking a still shot from a video. I had no idea I was being recorded at that moment and so seeing that it was me that was in Amma’s arms was such a gift.

      At the time that recording occurred the tour staff were dancing for Amma. Akshay and Sreejit were part of the group that was dancing at that particular moment.

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  1. A beautiful share, Karuna! And congratulations on your upcoming retirement. How exciting to enter a new season of life with so many opportunities ahead. My “new season” has left me mostly confused and wanting. I often find myself struggling between too many plans and no plans at all; feeling some disappointment in not achieving all that I think I should and feeling adrift with no firm destination in sight (simultaneously!). I am trying to be more “go with the flow” while at least having a general navigation toward a higher, more fulfilling purpose. I feel that my time where I am has served its purpose and now I just want to run freely to everything I’ve desired to explore and experience, but familial ties and my seeming role as matriarch for everyone older and younger than me in my circle of care carries a weight which hints that perhaps I must stay still for a while longer. For the “head” to feel obligated when the “spirit” desires freedom is certainly a difficult position for the heart. At this point, I am literally taking it day by day. Little clarity… lots of haziness… many open-ended questions… but I’m trying to maintain a posture of hope, joy and love through it all. Sigh… 🙂

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    1. Is part of your task to not take on the role of matriarch or everyone of every age? That sounds like a huge load.

      It occurred to me last night that the transition may not be all bliss for me either. I am by nature a loner. Without contact with co-therapists and clients I am going to have to actively work to not be alone day after day.

      I suspect it won’t actually be a problem but it is one I will have to watch out for. I’m just sick in India right now and feeling alone even though there are thousands of people here.

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      1. Well that’s the tricky part… I was certain that the biggest shift would be Xavier leaving home (becoming more independent) and me having all this extra free time to actually focus on and take care of me for a change (from the position that I always come last), which I’ve determined is key for realizing my path ahead and greatest sense of self. I, in a way, feel I have “done my time” prioritizing everyone else at the expense of my own peace and spontaneous spirit. I crave freedom from carrying the heavy load. But, instead, it seems that having raised my wonderful son and seeing him off to college has simply made room for me to now take on more relatives in need (in one case maybe dependence more so than need). As my city manager put it, I am now available to help other family members get their lives together. (yay?) This sounds bad, but… ugh!!! I am not a complainer, but the level of disrespect, lack of gratitude, ridiculous bouts of jealousy, daily negativity and just overall circus-level drama I experience at home (and at work via home) just compounds my resistance to this responsibility at a time when I “expected” to have none (other than my own). As the most stable one – mentally, emotionally, socially and economically – I naturally become the anchor for my entire bloodline. And God knows I am grateful for his countless blessings and gifts which allow me to help others, but I can’t tell you how often I wish I could just sell off the entire lot, pack my bag and disappear to some obscure place… travel the world… maybe just become a missionary or monk or the Last Air Bender… Lol … anything but the one who fixes everyone’s problems. Still, in my heart of hearts, I know that much is asked of the one to whom much is given. And so, I feel the fruits of my spirit come with obligations. What I don’t know is where my spiritual duty ends and my human gullibility begins. It just doesn’t feel right anymore. I want to be selfish now! … but then I feel guilty for wanting to be. Somehow, I’ve reached a point where others feel hurt if I do anything for myself. At 43 yrs of age, completely self-sustaining, child raised and well-adjusted, without any fixed ties to work or this community, and with a spirit hungry for “more”; it just doesn’t seem fair that I feel stuck. I’ve been praying about it, though. Xavier insists I develop an exit strategy with ultimatums and timelines… ASAP (love my kid), but that’s not really my style. so I haven’t wrapped my head around that yet. I guess I’m the most together mess you’ll ever find!! hahaha (eeek… I just looked back over this & realized it’s a novel!!!)

        As for the loner situation, I absolutely understand. That actually crossed my mind when you mentioned retirement, but then I figured between India/Amma and the community project in Seattle, you have enough passion for service to keep you engaged. Sometimes I think perhaps God immediately put dependent people in my life after Xavier left to keep me from becoming recluse and wallowing in my empty nest. It’s a fleeting thought 😀

        I’m so sorry to hear you’re sick. I hope you feel much better soon. I will keep you in prayer for healing. Xavier and I have set India and Ghana as our next two big travel destinations (with no actual dates in mind). I would love to take him to Israel too… we shall see.

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      2. You are right. I do have lots of people in my life and don’t think I will have trouble staying engaged. I will just need to put in a bit more effort with the work part of my life gone. I believe that I will be one of those people who is as busy in retirement as I was while I was working. I think it was mostly the part of me that isn’t feeling well now that was talking.

        I’d like to say some more about some of the things you said in your response but I think I’d like to write via email if it is okay with you. Would you send me an email at karunap108@comcast.net so I have your address. And if you’d rather me respond here that is okay too.

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  2. I always felt that photo was you with Amma but I had never asked. I love that photo, makes me weep with joy. I remember going to my first retreat, very skeptical, having been too brainwashed with Catholicism as a youth. You were the golden thread that drew me there…you never pushed me either. Your open and kind heart allowed me to see and feel for myself. I too like being alone as much as I love being with people and helping people, I treasure possessively my solitude. It is my only way to refuel emotionally, spiritually and physically.

    How exciting to retire in May to give you more time to do what you love! I turn 65 this year and as I am trying to find a way to wean away from work (4 days now), I know I need to find a balance to continue doing what I love. Writing, reading and I want to start crafting greeting cards as a hobby, I still to plan options to get out such as volunteering more at an agency supporting friends and family with mental illness here in Montreal. I am still unsure if I want to stay here though…

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    1. I love it too. I was so lucky to see it on a video!

      I look forward to see how both of us evolve during our retirement; i.e. what life holds for us and what we choose to do. I’m excited.

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