About five years ago I was drawn to check out a local ashram and spiritual center, one connected to Ram Dass and his beloved guru that changed the course of his life in one moment: Neem Karoli Baba.  I have been going frequently ever since. I was originally inspired by the motto I saw and felt there: “Love everyone, feed everyone, tell the Truth.” 

At first the traditions born from thousands of years-old Indian Vedic practices were unfamiliar to me, like the large marble murti (sculpture) of Hanuman that people kneel to and place fruit and flowers in front of daily. 

Viewing it from my more analytical mind rather than my heart center, my initial impression of the people who go there seemed mixed. Some of the community the temple attracted appeared a bit rag-tag and random, others came across as well-heeled and pious; some were drifters with seemingly no place else to go, and some were some bright-eyed idealists seeking a better world for all. This oasis of Indian Hinduism and permaculture in the middle of an artsy, earthy, rugged individualist, multicultural, sorta hippyish, small mountain town took me by surprise. But almost right away I found myself in long conversations about spirituality, environmental sustainability, enlightenment, Hindu deities, the value of meditation, yoga and prayer, methods for self-empowerment, even solutions for poverty, depression, and integrative community living, etc. It quickly came to feel like a place where I could be myself and speak openly about spiritual beliefs and my visions for an ideal future for humanity. I love being around others who are, like me, devoted to something greater than themselves.

Things began to make more sense. I learned that the mantras and chants are scientifically shown to optimally create resonant sound waves in the chambers of the human head that produce positive benefits in the human form, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I understood that Hanuman, rather than being an monkey shaped idol that people pray to, represents the aspect of our own divine inner self (and some say even is a symbol for the human endocrine system operating in an ideal way, so that is what gives it power to “remove suffering”.)

I love how many people benefit from the community meals made with devotion, fresh ingredients and caring detail. I love the beautiful gardens, the organic farm, the Sanskrit chants, the fresh flowers on the altars, the hot chai & blessed food served free to all, the shared kirtan and shared seva (selfless service). Incense and fire ceremonies, the laughter of playing children and the calls and beauty of the sacred peacocks have all become familiar. I love that everyone is freely welcome there. The ashram has come to feel like a second home.

It is there that I first saw people (in America) regularly wearing two different socks. In summer many go barefoot across the grounds. I have grown to love the mix of prayer beads and flower necklaces (malas), colorful shawls of different patterns and beautiful special occasion Indian saris among other widely varying styles of dress. Coming from the suburbs of a large city and having spent a good deal of my life in academia and other professional roles, a tidy appearance always seemed to me to be of great significance. What other people thought of me and how I looked seemed important. But I began realizing a lot of these “societal rules” were not really my highest truth. Who says that when one sock sports a hole, (or goes missing in the laundry!), that the other sock need be discarded? Do socks really have to match? or gloves for that matter? I found out, no. What really matters is what one wears within one’s heart. I have always known that, but it really is amazing how many hidden beliefs can keep us feeling separate instead of connected like one big human family.

I also found out upon greater introspection, I still held a lot of beliefs I once thought were true, but no longer held any meaning for me. It was time to let them go, and in the process I have become freer and freer and happier and happier as one by one I drop beliefs that don’t reflect who I have grown to be.

One of these old beliefs I left behind was the idea that hard work is more virtuous than simply enjoying being alive. I learned that following my excitement with integrity yields better results than following a series of “shoulds” and pushing through resistance instead of transforming the resistance into flow, and then engaging in work joyfully, like play. I realized that seeing others in lack and pitying them while trying to help them doesn’t actually uplift or empower them, or myself. I didn’t know before that through alignment and heart coherence I could lead my best and happiest life, and also be of greatest value to others.

Most of us ponder the meaning of life at some point in our lives. Have you ever asked yourself what is really True, and what ideas and conventions are simply made up by society or cultures or other humans that on some level, consciously or unconsciously, we just accept as the way life is or has to be? Just because someone else somewhere along the history of humankind held a thought or idea long enough for it to become form, does it mean that we need to subscribe to it too? Are we bound by the conventions that we have inherited, or are we powerful creators who get to bring our own divine clarity to thoughts turning to things…conditions, inventions, and cultural breakthroughs even better than any yet known? I choose to believe the latter. We are powerful eternal consciousness choosing to focus in a localized, highly specific way through human bodies, and this experience is an amazing gift!

It took me a long time to realize we are all just making all this stuff up! So why wouldn’t I make up stuff that feels really good, empowering, allowing, joyful and benefits all beings? How about you?

Who would you be and what would you choose, if today you were given a blank slate to design your ideal self, your ideal community, your ideal family, your ideal world free from limitations of the past?

Some things to ask yourself when confronted with something that appears to be a different value or expression than you currently hold or have known in the past:

Is it true?
(does this expression or way of believing seem resonant to me as my ideal Self? hint: if what you are thinking doesn’t feel good, you aren’t seeing it from the highest most loving perspective available to you!)

Is it valid?
(even if it doesn’t resonate with you, all creations and expressions are valid. When you remind yourself of this, it feels much better to allow than it does to criticize or condemn something. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with or condone something you don’t resonate with, it is just preferable not to give your power away to it, so you can use your creative energy to bring into form something that you do prefer instead.)

Is it something I choose to include in my life or my experience?
(If so, I give it my full attention.
If not, rather than judge it or push against it, I choose to allow it and focus my attention elsewhere in a more empowered way.)

Is it something that excites me that is available to me with integrity, or am I considering it because of societal beliefs or past limited beliefs I no longer relate to?
(hint: if it feels more like a should instead of Yay! you would do well to consider what you could do right now that feels more like a Yay! (as long as that Yay! comes with an integrated knowing that includes a wide perspective and does no harm to anyone else). Repeat this approach often, and your life will soon be moving along in an inspired Flow that provides you with what you need when you need it. Though it might (usually & perhaps always) mean learning new ideas of receiving, exchanging, and energetically expanding in the process!)

Call to new action:
Consider doing something you have never done before that might get you thinking and living in a more expanded way. Wear two different socks! Skip in the grocery store! Compliment someone you’ve never met before in an authentic way for a reason you find to appreciate them. Be creative and have fun, re-learning what it is to be a hu-man/woman!

(“hu in ancient texts like Sanskrit was God or the most high, like king, as translated from Sumerian Sanskrit to Arabic to Hebrew the meaning underwent some changes, but overall human is God-man, in the image of God.”)