Before, During but mostly AFTER THE FALL

Siva, Yogi, and Destroyer at Murudeshwara Temple, Karnataka, India
(may he destroy my and all illusions!)

Falling – physically, emotionally, spiritually, politically - is what I'm thinking about most lately in this amazing, edgy place called India. With eyes turned inward and outward, tonight I will observe the setting sun and rising so-called super moon from the deck of our homestay in Rishikesh. But right now it’s all about a fall – and that includes the season when leaves with exquisite grace and ease, descend to earth.

In Gokarna, I descended recently, from an open-aired bench that had an elegant downward slope to its side. As I slipped down the curve, amused, I thought of a child’s playground slide and was certain I could correct myself, but could not. I tumbled backwards and downwards a few feet (3 to 4) to earth where I intuitively righted my body with a chakrasana (backward somersault) finial.

What fascinates me is in those few seconds before landing, there was complete release into the fall and a kind of curiosity as to what the landing would be like. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change what was happening and that was oddly liberating.

In Seattle in the 80’s I witnessed the 5-story fall to death of a Sankai Juku Butoh dancer. This man uttered not a sound as he fell. Etched in my memory, it has always seemed tragic and horrifying. I think now that even though he knew he would surely die – he may have enjoyed the ride down. Perhaps like the story in the Buddhist sutras, instead of tasting a strawberry, he savored the view and sensations.  Here's the story (I never truly understood it in grad school):
A man, while out walking one day, is confronted by a ferocious, man-eating tiger. As he backs away from the animal, he realizes he is trapped at the edge of a high cliff just as the tiger snarls and pursues him.
His only hope of escape is to suspend himself over the abyss by holding onto a vine that grows at its edge. As the man dangles from the cliff, two mice begin to gnaw on the vine he is clutching. If he climbs back up, the tiger will surely devour him; if he stays, there is the certain death of a fall onto the rocks. The vine begins to give way, and death is imminent. 
Just then the precariously suspended man notices a ripe wild strawberry growing along the cliff’s edge. He plucks it, pops it into his mouth, and says,  “This lovely strawberry, how sweet it tastes.”
This story helps me put all things - Including this week's political train wreck-  in some perspective. And to quote another Buddhist sutra: 

gate gate paragate parasamgate, Bodhi svaha

Master Ashtangi, Andrew Hillam, put it this way: All is maya (illusion), you take practice and know truth!

So, after the fall, as it were, with a thud - and getting real, I have been hoping I'm just politically paranoid. However, hearing about the Trumpster’s cabinet choices, his refusal to take a salary as president, his followers with all their 2nd amendment guns in hand, his role as commander in chief, his plan for rallies -  I'm filled with dread. It sounds like a perfect set up for positioning himself as dictator and with the help of the angry masses moving into a neo-Hitler state. Please let this be paranoia!

And sadly, I think the jokes I see on FB around all this are good, brilliant even, but I can't laugh.

Okay, enough of heaven and earth!  I am thrilled to be in India doing Ashtanga (more on this later) and I need to eat a strawberry.


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