In flood areas, crawl spaces take the place of basements. When they flood, they get full of evil water and mud, debris and germs. They necessitate crawling in them with Gore-Tex and sump pumps. What, you may ask, is so great about that? There are spiders and spider webs…they are dark, dank places that look like ancient dungeons. Hardly the places you’d expect to find enlightenment or liberation from suffering.
Yet it is exactly in these places that we find a usable and pragmatic versions of these gifts of liberation and enlightenment, a real and tangible definition of them. Not in trying to salvage our own material junk (for if it was in a flooded crawl space, it is now most likely junk), but in looking beyond our own concerns, in helping others re-order their lives and establish a sense of normality. In showing support and community, we transcend ourselves and our ego-based worries.
In doing this, we find a quite quotidian yet sublime version of liberation. In transcending ourselves we find perhaps not a yogic form of enlightenment, but a functional precursor to it. In these historic moments, we discover the chance to define ourselves…do we hunker down with a few Banana Babies and a lotta Netflix, or do we get out there and help spin the world, help heal it and make it better? Do we spend our time in service or in hunkering down and Facebooking, focused on our own needs and concerns? Our choices in the past week (and in this week, when so much help is still needed) define us…at least in this historic moment they do. The next moment we are, of course free to define ourselves in other ways. We are indefinable, far too vast to put into little boxes of definition. Yet in many ways we do just that with our inactions…or blow those boxes open by our loving actions.
Service is not the best answer to many – they need to stay at home and take care of kids or elderly parents, maybe just take care of themselves and make one less disoriented person wandering the streets. That is their work, and the best place for them to be. But for me, service (seva, or meaningful contribution) is the key in a life that would simply be a hedonistic hell without it.
So this flood can be a blessing in disguise – a chance to show and enact real community, to give hugs and support, to manifest a better (although perhaps muddier) version of ourselves. I theoretically missed my sacred yoga flow and gym today to help. Didn’t miss it a bit in actuality… my yoga was in crawl spaces and in ‘ruined’ houses and yards. Being calm and effective and resting in a potentially challenging space was my work, my sadhana.
These jobs (and the continued rain) offer us a chance to abide…in what we know to be true, in the unshakable rock and effulgent light at our core. We can abide when we think we’ve had enough and just want to rest or run away from it all. when we want to curse the elixir if life falling from the heavens because we think it is too much, in our opinions. Then is when we can abide in love, in patience, in presence.
This is the point where our true practice begins. As a sadhaka, most think of me as a practitioner of a sacred and ancient science. I see it as an aspirant on the sacred path. All One. Sacred or not, divine or not, this physical and phenomenological realm is where we can transcend, where we can create something better than what was…perhaps not fully Divine, but pretty darn close and near enough to get the job done.
In pedaling out to Boulder to help, I move out of my isolation, my disconnection. In giving my strong and arm gentle hand to others, I discover a better version of myself. I also discover that, for reasons either altruistic, pragmatic, or both, I love to help people in general and specifically love to help people A) heal and B) learn. I love to teach, and I love to work. In this work, my various pinched nerve roots are suddenly forgotten, for I am mighty. My crushed and worn vertebrae and joints are moot, for I am capable of the most heroic feats…if they are helping others. If the intention is helping myself, I am too crippled with pain to get up and pedal, much less work and help. If I am helping others, I have ‘go’ to spare.
This works the same way for magic and bestowing blessings. I am powerless to bestow them on myself (in any way but by concrete actions), yet find I can bestow blessing and magic on others quite easily, if willed for their (and the world’s) ultimate healing and growth and blossoming. I am a powerful druid and wise yogi if I am helping. If I am self-focused, I am a mean old man, falling apart and consumed with pain and suffering. That alone is magic, and you’d agree if you could see my MRIs.
Just as I crawl around in mucky spaces to help my friends, I also crawl around in mucky lives to help them. Many of the helpful things I have done have not required brute strength or superior intelligence, but simply in listening, being there, giving out some sugar when sugar is needed, in lending a hug or a hand as required. Sometimes bringing a sense of order and normalcy back to a flooded and messy life is done by helping people re-frame their perception of themselves and their challenges. Sometimes it is just by sharing a beer and an ear (no mean feat, as I generally detest booze).
Often, it is easier to crawl through physical muck and lift and carry huge loads than it is to simply be present, without judgment or prescriptions or words, but in the heart. Sometimes that is the real work, that is the way we can help after the flood. by simple things like consideration and compassion. By being one less angry or upset person in a town half full of angry and upset people (the other half are, of course, shining love to balance things out). By listening…truly listening. By hearing and feeling those people who have gone through so much, by supporting them in our thoughts and intentions…and actions.
In my capacity as World’s Doctor (degree awarded by Goddess Herself), I prescribe the following for those in pain or suffering (physical, mental, or emotional) – go help some one. You won’t have to look far. It could be as easy as giving a smile or baking a cake, as hard as carrying debris and wheelbarrow loads of muck. Just help. Look beyond your own nose, beyond your own concerns and problems, and they magically disappear..or at least abate for a while. In helping, we gain respite for ourselves. In helping, we gain the only true honor we can. This type of honor cannot be bought or made, cannot be gained by medals or accolades, cannot be awarded by kings or emperors. It can only be gained by helping, by being another human among humans who need help. It can be gained by dropping for a moment our plans and problems, our schedules and concerns, and simply lending a hand. Try it, doc thinks you’ll like the results.