Years back when I first lived in Canberra, a group of us from work would go to meditation + chanting classes at the Sri Chinmoy centre not far from our office building.
There was me, my Virgo boss, our adorable Ecuadorian salsa friend and two hacker tech boys. We’d get in the escalators, laughing, and wander across the city mall + work our way up through some tiny, ricketty stairs and find ourselves in this big, bare, light-soaked space.
Our teacher Prakesh was a white dude in a tracksuit. Sri Chinmoy was his Indian guru. Sri, like all good Indian gurus, was both a gifted prophet + total bullshit scammer. Even the gurus are humans. But still, we went for the teachings, and they were beautiful and perfect.
Prakesh would lead us through different meditations + chants. There was the usual “stare at a candle while you meditate” one (works pretty good) and the “stare at a picture of Sri while you did it” (a little too creepy guru for us, and it gave all of us the sniggers). Prakesh was very serious and earnest in his devotion though, and patiently ignored our ridiculousness.
One day, Prakesh pulled out this keyboard contraption that was powered by a large billow. And he played, and began to sing.
Usha bala elo
Dhire aji dhire
Slowly, very slowly,
The virgin dawn appears
In the very depths of my aspiration-heart.
I want to experience all of myself.I want to learn myself all again.How can I love even more?
And so this is what the ocean of God did.
This is what all of us did.
We took the pledge.
Droplets of water evaporated up off the ocean.
Into clouds, heavy and small.
Rained out across the planet.
Some of us are rained out by the seaside,
and soon make our way home again.
Some of us are rained into a stream,
and bumping up against each other softly,
tumbling over the rocks,
we find our way back to the ocean.
And some of us get rained out into the desert.
And we become lost there for years.
We are desolate + dried up + so very very alone.
It is dark. Pure darkness.
We wonder around, not knowing who we are,
where we came from, what we are doing here.
We cry out in the darkness.
Please. Someone find me. Please. Is anyone there?
I am so very very lost.
I don’t know who I am or where I belong.
And it is there.
There in the depths of the unknowing,
there in the endless call of our heart
to know ourselves
to know each other,
there in the blackest ink of nightsky,
there in the deepest midst of suffering and sorrow,
there that the glimpse of dawn cracks through.
Can you think of how you would feel?
To be so deeply lost.
To not even see your own hands it is that dark.
To call out into silence?
for God to answer…
with the first ray of dawn.
And so it is there.
There that the first rays appear.
There that hope is born.
There that slowly, slowly,
we find ourselves,
and find each other,
and inch by inch by inch
from salt to rock to bird to stream to sea
we find our way home
to the ocean of God that was waiting
and that we were all along.
It may take some of us but a moment
It may take some of us an aeon
but all of us are heading home
and all of us
made this choice
out of love
to experience love once again.
I used to think often about Usha Bala Elo.
I don’t anymore. I don’t need to.
It’s a part of me now, a part that makes up how I see life.
If you are to know Leonie, you must also know
Usha Bala Elo.