When there is love in our heart, only love will come out. Radhanath Swami
You know how it is, when you’re in the flow, feeling really good, and the momentum just keeps on building, and the good things just keep on coming your way? It was like that for me this past weekend in Maine where I was visiting with friends and family, and working on my book project with writing buddy, Muriel. The weather couldn’t have been more glorious, sunny and hot and lush, with lilacs and azaleas in full bloom and leaves freshly unfurled. I soaked it in, the sea breeze and the heat, dipped my feet in the Atlantic and ate fiddlehead ferns — a family favorite — with my two brothers and their spouses. It was wonderful and I rode the wave of the good-feeling weekend right into Saturday night and an evening alone and the excitement of a movie playing at the old renovated mill in Brunswick on the banks of the Androscoggin River, in the small theater in Frontier’s restaurant/pub. This place that offers independently-produced films is a dream-come-true for a gal like me with a hearty appetite who loves movies and fresh locally-grown creatively-prepared food that you can take right into the theater.
It’s like that when you’re in your stride, riding the high-vibe current downstream; your dreams come true and the perfect movie shows up for you. And it did for me last weekend. One Track Heart was the film playing at Frontier, a documentary about Krishna Das, the American-born performer of an Indian-style devotional music called Kirtan. I love Krishna Das. When Cam and I spent a week in Rishikesh, India four years ago, the chants of Krishna Das flooded through the crowded streets. “In India, he’s a rock star!” Ramesh, our guide, told us. And, for years, his music has been a rock in my life, something stable that I can count on. Cranking up the volume and playing his chants as I putter-clean my house sets my spirit soaring, and turning the sound way down low during a yoga class and allowing Krishna Das to cradle us in background music settles and calms me at my core.
And this documentary was filled with his music; in small intimate gatherings and in football field-sized outdoor concerts, Krishna Das is shown singing his heart out, and the audience, repeating the chants, are shown singing their hearts out, too, in a mood that just lifts itself higher and higher for the people participating, and we, the people watching it unfold on the movie screen before us. And yet, the story that Krishna Das tells of making his way onto the stage and into the sacred music is fraught with struggle. In college, he played in a band, dreamed of fame and fortune and rock and roll, and, although the music fed him, he was hungry, even starving inside, for something else, and this desire for an inner sustenance led him, along with a group of friends, to northern India in 1970, to an ashram where he lived for three years, meditating and studying and learning the sacred chants with the Hindu guru, Neem Karoli Baba, who he calls Maharaj-ji. Krishna Das speaks of Maharaj-ji’s unconditional love, of the bliss that Krishna Das and his fellow Americans felt in their guru’s presence, how it was intoxicating, and, how, three years later, it was hard to leave this physical presence when Maharaj-ji sent the Americans back home to the United States, home to learn how to live in their own country. Krishna Das speaks of the loneliness he felt for his guru once he was back home, and the devastation that swept over him when, a few years later, Maharaj-ji left his physical body behind, how for years, there was a longing for that unconditional love, for the feeling that he had experienced in India. And it wasn’t until he realized that it wasn’t the physical presence of the guru that he was missing, but the love that the guru emanated , and this love, it could be found everywhere.
My father died when I was not quite eighteen, in the autumn of my senior year in high school, when I was on the precipice of adulthood, but not quite there. He was the person in my life who I felt “got” me the most. And for the seventeen and a half years that he was in my physical presence, he radiated love in my direction, a love that felt unconditional to me, with his devotion to my activities and with his sheer delight in my very beingness. I had no doubt that my father, a man with a buoyant whistle-in-his-walk spirit, loved me, and, when he was no longer there physically, I was devastated. And for years, if you asked me, I would have told you that this, this event, my father ‘s dying, was the great tragedy of my life. It was a hole that I couldn’t seem to fill up — I understand what Krishna Das is talking about in this documentary, the lonely bottomless pit of trying to find something on the outside that now seems to be missing. And although years of writing and therapy and meditation certainly were pointing me in a direction of joyful wholeness, I can tell you the exact moment when something shifted inside of me. Something wonderful.
I was weeding the garden in the late spring, the year that my father-in-law died, twelve years ago now, decades after my own father had made his transition. And, as I dug my hands in the spring earth, it was the strangest feeling; I could feel my father-in-law’s presence, his essence, and a love so strong that I was overcome by it. And in those moments, among the plants and the soil, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world, to have such a father-in-law, and the feeling of love spread as I crouched down in the spring earth — I felt them both, these fathers who I had adored in their physical form, these fathers who had adored me. And the love was palpable, not a memory, but a real present-day feeling that they were present in this love. And I realized then and there that there was no hole inside. And suddenly, I, who had told the story of tragedy all those years, had a new story to tell, one of love overflowing, of feeling so loved, a story of immense appreciation. And when I heard Krishna Das talking of this love on the big screen a week ago, I knew what he was talking about.
So how do we connect with this steady stream of love? How do we release our attachment to form and realize that the love is everlasting? How do we become the steady stream of love regardless of who we are with and what we are doing? It’s easy to feel love, at least for me, with my feet dipped into the sandy edge of the Atlantic, when I am smelling lilacs in full bloom, when I’m cuddling with my husband, when I’m watching a good movie, when things are going my way. It’s easy for me to feel love when I’m around that grandson of mine, easy for me to feel ridiculously intoxicated with love when I’m crawling on the floor, following his buoyant being from room to room, easy for me to clutch him in my arms and press my lips against his face and smash a kiss into those baby cheeks and say, “I love you I love you I love you!” It’s easy for me to feel uplifted, as if I’m on stage chanting those chants, when I’m with my grandson, Viren. But what about when I have to say good-bye to him, and it’s going to be another six weeks before my next fix? What do I do then? Well, I can think of him, and, if I do it from a place of fullness, a place of genuine appreciation, not lack, I am filled up inside, filled to the brim, and that love that is filling me up, it spills over into everything.