Jiwan – life
The year started off as one full of promise, really as all years and new cycles begin. I was looking for new meaning to life in a faraway land that I love. I was to live alongside the Ganga, the mother, the hope of countless who want to be by her side and talk to her with their hearts. I was no different though my cultural and religious upbringing wasn’t the same and, perhaps, she didn’t mean the same to me. But oh how I loved the sound of her name “Ganga Ma!” I was learning to be reverent within her broad shores.
Life became hopeful. I found that I enjoyed being there with the “rishis,” the shopkeepers and the people who came from all parts of the globe. Such has always been the magnetic pull of the mother. There was conversation, music, stillness and learning. There were cows and monkeys and honking horns that threatened my peace of mind. There were young and old, but mostly old, dressed in orange with long unkempt hair and beards, and you couldn’t help but wonder how they passed their days. There were countless who pasted their image on signs and banners everywhere, or just scribbled who they were in the most inconspicuous of places. There were so many “gurus” and programs that I wondered if I ever wanted to teach again. But, then again, that was just me and my natural aversion to self-promotion. In spite of it all, I still found a home there amongst the contradiction and the promise.
Then, not so long ago, a cloud came over from the West, born by the winds, to cover so many of us with doubt and disbelief. It was a dark cloud, a very dark cloud, and threatened to obscure the light, so much so, that you wondered if you’d ever see it again. There was hurt and blame, and innocence was lost in that cloud of harsh realities. Accepting darkness is never easy if you’re looking for the light, especially, if your whole life has been devoted to finding the light.
So why didn’t we rise up and stand tall and straighten the spine for we were more ourselves than ever. Yet walking alone is not easy and you need some practice doing it. Most of us are never alone and never go looking willingly for that solitude and chance to define the steps we will take in life.
The cloud turned into a terrible storm as disease spread rapidly not respecting borders or governments, the rich or the poor. It was a very dark cloud and we talked of new things like lockdowns, social distancing and self-isolation. Wash your hands and don’t touch your face, and definitely don’t sneeze or cough without misdirecting the fallout of the germs you’re sending out there. Confined to our homes each day, where productivity and inspiration are so desperately sought after yet so elusive most of the time, we try to adjust. We look for that glimmer of light peeking through the clouds.
It was “Amrit Vela” this morning, a time of nectar, a chosen time to be free of the world. Yet, I am a social animal and however brief was my intention, I found myself connected to Jiwan Shakti (Joan Sendra) chanting to Guru Ram Das for 31 minutes. Now, his name means the “power of life,” and we go back a long way. We’ve sung together so many times over the years that communication between us was never more than a glance or a nod of the head. With him, I had the perfect partner as creativity was never bound by constraint or fear, and every moment was an opportunity to reach out and uplift.
We haven’t seen each other for what will soon be a year, and I’ve wondered many times how he was. I found him again this morning, perhaps separated by a big ocean as we were, but there he was sitting in his studio. It was just him surrounded by his mic and his laptop with his guitar in his lap. This is Joan or Jiwan Shakti. I don’t think he needs anything else in life.
He did everything – hands folded, eyes closed and deep breaths. He chanted to invoke a connection and called on the guru within. He did it all and he did it without second thoughts of who he was. He chanted “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” and “Aad Gurey Nameh,” as he had learned and done countless times before.
Then came the main event! The chanting to Guru Ram Das in Joan’s unequivocal style – simple, exquisite, professional. The uncomplicated melody calming and soothing me, even caressing me. It was over too fast but, then again, you could never really trust Joan with the clock.
There is no question that I love this man and maybe because of that, I was able to see some light shining through the clouds this morning. We have made the mantras ours. The songs are ours and the singing is who we are. None of it pertains or belongs to one man or culture. What we have created is a new kind of virus and it has infected the soul. It belongs to all of us. It’s a good kind of virus. I am intoxicated just as Guru Ram Das was; humbled just as he was; grateful just as he was.