the image on top is "Welcome Home Sweet Sugar" by Kelsey Brooks

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Strength to Overcome

           The Hanuman Chalisa is an epic poem of devotion that makes me feel like I can do anything.

           Absolutely anything.

           Nothing is too frustrating, trying or hopeless when the chalisa is playing. It flicks on some internal power switch in my heart while simultaneously removing despair static.

           Hanuman, also known as "The Monkey God" is a Hindu deity that symbolizes strength, courage, devotion and my favorite quality, grace. In the words of Krishna Das, Hanuman represents the "strength to overcome all obstructions, all problems...anything that's in the way of us accomplishing our goals...and of course our ultimate goal is to open our hearts."

           It is said that reciting the poem brings great strength, the full verse by verse benefits outlined here.

Here's a few of my favorite renditions of the Chalisa....

1. I heard this one last summer (the very first time I heard about the hanuman chalisa). It's probably still my favorite.

2. You may not know this about him, but artist Trevor Hall is a fantastic kirtan singer.


3. Krishna Das has several versions of the chalisa, but this one on the album "Gate of Sweet Nectar" sounds so very hopeful and joyous. I recommend buying the mp3 because the sound quality is worth it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Personal Statement: Cohesion in Being

 In college, I was a young, ambitious bulimic, with little compassion for the existential terror that gnawed at the edge of my psyche. At seventeen, I moved to the biggest city America had to offer, to study at its most liberal, creative and arguably leftist institution. Never had I ever tried sex, drugs, racial disparity in student populations, or books by Focault and Emma Goldman.

I wanted to know every way there was to think, and in my first few years alone I took classes in over ten fields of interest. Of particular impact were Gallatin's interdisciplinary seminars on identity, power, race, gender and environment. I credit these courses with both nightmares and insomnia, but also for opening up my eyes to the complexity of the world.

Perhaps my curiosity developed faster than my sagacity, for soon enough I was engulfed by experiences that I had no category of understanding for, and which refused to slide neatly into my worldview. As a first-generation immigrant, I was raised in a courageous family with fairly old-fashioned values. Although we always had some disagreements, the more I went to my urban liberal arts school, the more the gulf widened between our perceptions of reality. I'll admit that during this time, I questioned everything, including my sanity.

Mid-way through my freshman year, I discovered adderall, which seemed like a great solution for the pesky problems of food and rest. At first, adderall stopped my binge/purge cycle, and allowed me to actually concentrate. Over time, however, its original effects declined, and I upped my dosage in panic, overwhelming my sympathetic nervous system and placing continuous stress on my adrenal glands. My Sophomore year, I declined sleep, and, shockingly, my academic performance suffered as well.

These were not my proudest moments, but they are also important to me. Right around this time,
somehow, I started realizing that my experience wasn't fixed. That my experience of the world
depended on my perception and interpretation of it. I began to explore my own psyche.

I discovered a local, donation-based yoga center, and got hooked instantaneously. When I practiced, I
discovered a strange, and astonishing, sense of presence. I began to understand myself,
mentally and physically, and the world provided an abundance of methods for self-examination. I
began a new series of classes in existentialism, physics and philosophy, and took an independent study
on brainwaves, entrainment and binaural beats. The links between neuroscience and philosophy called
out to me, particularly in respect to the role that music and vibration play in the psyche. My studies
finished off with classes such as “Body and Soul”, while my colloquium themed itself on the meaning
of integrity. I was learning to be kind, and honest with myself.

I have spent the past five years discovering and exploring a variety of healing and therapeutic modalities, that have each brought me clarity and comfort in their own right, and joy blended together. These forms include yoga, sound therapy, kirtan, psychotherapy and meditation. To the strict Western mind, it appears I haven't studied since college. Yet I feel there was a scholarly demeanor to my pursuits. I read books, kept journals, sought out teachers and showed up to class, every day.

Last year, I co-founded a small yoga and sound healing service that aims to bring the benefits of sound meditation to the public through donation-based events.

Yoga gave me my first opportunity to listen to client's concerns and, occasionally, offer a helpful pose, breath exercise or meditation. I would like to offer more. I desire to study counseling in order to ease and aid in the experience of others, and to get a better grasp of the human experience. Perhaps one day I'll have a better grasp on what makes us hold on to past experiences or let go of them, what activates a positive mood or a negative one, and how one can become comfortable with one's mortality and existence. I would like to learn.

Why have I not turned to counseling before?

The truth is, and I am ashamed to say it, I was disturbed by the idea of a "helping profession". Meditation has brought up a few things for me, and one of the scariest is my own internalized misogyny. Not too long ago, I felt that the movers and shakers of this world were creators and leaders, who independently pushed their will forward. I always imagined that when I was most in my element, when things felt right, I would be a very active being. I believe I was wrong. To my astonishment, my most authentic self can be a very receptive self. The greatest, positive, most active change I can create is to feel compassion.

When I was at NYU, my director of student affairs, Danielle Insalaco-Egan, was the sort of person who had crayons and coloring books for all the confused 20 year olds. I came into her office once, in state of distress, seeking comfort and reassurance. She listened to me for a while, and absorbed my confusion. Then she spoke, slowly, and said;

"I think I've learned.....the world is full of walking wounded. And no one knows how to act".

My goal is to become a licensed Marriage and Family therapist, with an interest in existential and humanistic trains of thought. I also aim to research the effects of sound meditation as a means of legitimizing this practice and spreading it to the public. Sound meditation instruments are an excellent tool for those who 'cannot meditate' due to anxiety and uncontrollable or repetitive thoughts. They are also powerful for working through deep issues and finding release. I believe they inspire feelings of compassion for one's own experience, which can be incredibly therapeutic.

As for my future aspirations, I one day dream of a public center where psychotherapists can practice with clients on a walk-in basis. Fundamentally, the center would have a safe space that would be filled with the soothing sounds of Tibetan singing bowls, gongs and other healing instruments. There would be space for self-led practice of yoga, rooms for one-on-one therapy, and also an area to sit and study. Perhaps there will be a tea shop, for extra revenue. First in my own self, and then in the outside world, I would like to create an urban sanctuary that would be a safe haven for anyone feeling lost, stressed or confused.