Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Well-Whisperer

Shubha Shree Panchami!  

Shree imbues everything with her essence. So we have Shree (a name for Lakshmi) prefixed to Sarasvati's Panchami. I see the coins (dakshina) as symbolic in many ways. This is a tiny little puja and those coins will help some of the expenses. It was a joy encountering  the goddess tucked into a little niche on a thoroughfare. She is pictured below.

The clarion call of the conch startles me and fills my soul with its breath. There are so many streams of thought all flowing in to me this morning. I am swimming in this pleasant chakratirtha, this divine swirl of energy. 
All around, Sarasvati is being welcomed in homes and pandals!

My thoughts turn to the spirit of the day – gurus and shishyas and those porous borders between them through which the essences of wisdom transfer themselves both ways. It’s a fine morning to revive  the Chakratirtha Travels website and fill it with new energy. People all around are writing and painting and singing with their pens and brushes and cameras, their voices and lutes and conches.

The best start to this venture of renewal would be a tribute to my guru Kim Raikes in whom all my gurus(those I draw from) – past and future, and all my shishyas(those who draw from me) , mingle in sacred synergy. Do not miss the well symbolism in that line. Nor my personal understanding that these roles are fluid and interchangeable. (Find out more about  Guru-Shishya - the traditional notion)

Some months ago I was at a low point in my life and yearning for inspiration. These lines flashed before me in a dream and jolted me into awareness of these truths.

"And the well shall travel with thee across the parched desert!"
On an impulse I posted it on Facebook. It resonated with many but one young friend Pranaadhika especially surprised and delighted me with her mention of Isaiah. 

Kim responded “Is this what you're looking for?” with the quote:

Isaiah 41:17 (NRSV) says, "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the God of Israel will not forsake them" Isaiah 41:18 (NRSV) speaks of God's opening "rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys..." and making "the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water."

And  my reactions poured spontaneously out into my journal. I now share the conversation with my fellow travelers. These thoughts are all of ours and the insights are for all of us.

We all have our metaphorical inner parched deserts shouting down those metaphorical wells. Wells don't often shout  back, they whisper their answers so softly they're sometimes hard to pick up. 

We  all have our bleak, lonely nights, our utterly isolating moments in the midst of sunshine and color all around us. These words told me that the soothing nectar of hope and comfort were only a hip-flask away, but we tended to search the sand dunes like the mother in the story who searched the world for her baby, who was perched safely all along  on her own hip, riding along on mommy's wanderings in bewildered wonder :)

Coming back to Kim, on hearing how I came by the words – in a lucid dream - she wrote a more meaningful story than I ever could have. Here then is what the well whispered to her!

"Ah, this is a sign, on several levels, that Gujarat and Rajasthan (yes those driest of dry places) are the destinations that will feed (water) us (our spirits)...

"When I opened my new book ("Steps to Water:  The Ancient Stepwells of India" and first saw the map of India, I saw the intense series of well locations that dot the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.  I remembered what you said earlier when I said we needed to meet in Kerala next time; you said No, in Gujarat.  I wasn't sure why, but I understood when I looked at that map.

"'The well will indeed travel with us across the parched deserts' of our souls and lives, dearest.  So have confidence in that as you sort out the dry places of these current days.

Karan’s well drawing (there is an insightful and revealing conversation under the picture - in tune with this post and well worth reading) which was his gift to Kim as we three co-founded our venture in spring 2012, is deceptively simple, surprisingly powerful! It is shown here displayed on Kim's office wall in Maine Maritime Academy! Placed on the wall it appears to open a vista, to suck you away into its recesses. The unsuspecting, as they step into the room will be startled to see this portal :)

"I dipped into my book at the chapter on Patan first of all because the Queen's well (Rani Ki Vaav) was the one you first sent me, and besides Karan's (shown above) it was my introduction to the whole idea of step wells (and pond wells) in India.  I was completely blown away to discover that this well was buried in mud for 9 centuries and only in the last hundred years or so, dug out to see the light of day.

"All those exquisite carvings of Vishnu's incarnations, buried 900 years in the mud!

"So I've been thinking about mud and how our own exquisite personal inner carvings get buried in the muck of crises and mundane dramas.  Sooner or later, they get dug out by some break-through event or realization, to reveal what's been shaped inside us.  That's what I'm hoping you'll focus on now:  through all this garbage of leaks and  medical messes, you've been shaping these exquisite carvings inside you, and they WILL be released.

I have confidence in that!!!"

And when Kim has confidence, the World has to!

This post is dedicated first to my Guru and soul-mate Kim, co-founder of Chakratirtha Travels and our Spiritual Center, and then to each and every one of my readers. May the spirit of the giver-receiver (for they are one) awaken within each of you.

Clicked by Kim in spring 2010 in Kolkata

The mud symbolism is ever present and so powerful. And it is from this mud that we shape our Durgas and Kalis, all those ephermeral Gods that manifest and dissolve to manifest again in another form. Today’s Saraswatis were shaped from last year’s Durgas and Lakshmis (and Saraswatis too)

And Kim continues with her immense wisdom and poetic insight:

“Early in the Bible (Genesis 26:18) there's a passage which describes the return of Isaac to the lands which his father Abraham had once owned in Canaan. On the land were old wells which his father had once dug, and Isaac re-dug them, because they had been stopped up in the intervening years.

"I think there's old wells in all of us, wells that have become stopped up with time, or which (like the Queen's well in Patan which filled with mud from the flow of the Sarasvati river) have suffered some kind of interruption. They're our hidden resources!

"Finding and re-digging them taps incredible gifts...and brings them to light, like the exquisite carvings of the Queen's well. Think of it, the incarnations of Vishnu lying for 900 years in the mud, not brought to light till 1980! Thank goodness somebody took on this job!

"I'm sure there's similar treasures in us, gifted us by family deep in the past, or the chance word of a song, or the sight of a tree. Crappy mud from the muck of life keeps covering them up, so we have to keep digging!

"Luckily, I have the best diggers in the world to help me; you and Karan help me get down to these treasures every day! Your shovels are words and poems and drawings and photos and myths and remembrances, and every one of them helps bring to light hidden resources inside me. Thank you!"

To Kim: Thanks for your compliments to us "Diggitizers"
You inspire this. And draw nectar from our wells.

What better  can I say in response than “Guru Devo Bhava?”

To our reades, fans, supporters: You guessed right! This post and discussion are evolving into "bookhood" … and lots more.
Watch out for more posts related to these ventures!