I live with my husband in Kerala, India in Mata Amritanandamayi’s ashram. Our lives are simple; we do a lot of volunteer work while in India and traveling several months out of the year with Amma’s tours. I met Amma when I was a small child, and grew up being shuttled between Transcendental Meditation and Amma’s community, as well as being the oldest daughter of an unorthodox Christian minister and a very Irish-Catholic mother.
Growing up, spirituality was always front-and-center in our household. I wasn’t really a fan of most of the varieties of spirituality that were presented to me, although I always knew that I loved Amma. This had the consequence of convincing me that I’m not actually a spiritual person. I have not reversed that stance entirely, but every year a little bit of my resistance to being “spiritual” is chipped away, and I find myself living a life that aspires towards serving humanity and understanding God.
Ultimately, I choose the life I live not because I ever actively wanted it, but because it was the best of all the options presented to me.
I say this knowing that I sound ungrateful, and accepting that fact.
I also say it knowing that I have experienced utter despair when trying to divert myself from this life – I feel I have been literally ruined for anything else.
However, restlessness plagues me, and this choice I have made doesn’t mean that I don’t harbor desires for another life or lifestyle. I still want many things that fall outside the purview of my current situation.
I wish for a small home, with a large garden and animals. I dream of baking bread and an oversized wooden kitchen table made by my father-in-law. I want bookshelves for days, and comfortable reading nooks. I crave quiet and solitude. I covet long stretches of routines and daily productivity, indulging in discovering new music and books. I bookmark recipes constantly, hoping for a chance to cook to my heart’s content. I wish for the chance to travel the world slowly, immersing myself in each culture until I’ve left part of myself there and it has been replaced by a piece of foreign magic and a new way of interpreting the world. I want to do this everywhere. And even though I hate time travel stories I wish I could know the realities of every period of every type of lifestyle throughout history, just so that I could understand it all.
While these are the desires that have grown with me throughout my lifetime, I think the desire I used to wish for most fervently was the ability to live what I imagined to be a “simple life”. “A simple life” meant a life without the awareness that my attitude and intentions can affect not only my immediate experience but also the trajectory of my entire path.
This sounds so…backwards when I write it out now, but I have wished to partake of an entirely different set of beliefs – one in which my faith and my actions could be divorced from one another.
The simplicity of a theoretical faith that permits actions and attitudes that I know under my current circumstances to be unacceptable seemed so enticing.
I suppose I have a feeling of heavy responsibility that I carry with me, and this is what makes it seem so wonderful to fantasize about a faith in which my intentions and actions are not determining factors.
If a simple declaration of faith and belief in divinity could absolve me from my poor choices and attitude, and utter lack of awareness…gosh, what a luxurious life that would be.
That sense of responsibility for my own spiritual evolution that has often weighed upon me springs from feelings of complete inadequacy. By what stretch of the imagination can I live up to standards that, frankly, overwhelm me? And that restlessness which begets desires for things that I know won’t make me happy persists. And while I may have the capacity to recognize the best options, I don’t always make the best choices.
However, as I said before, I’ve been ruined for anything but this wild and intricate life that I’ve been offered – one in which I am able to travel the world fast, seeing only subsections of society that are focused on glimpsing a small portion of what I am privileged to have front row seats to.
About four years ago I was sitting in a set of bleachers in Finland after an all-night program, looking at Amma. While sitting there, alone and above everyone else in the arena, I realized that I am miserable pursuing any other life than this one, and that I had better make an active choice to live this life or suffer from my stupidity.
Since that moment I’ve been attempting to find the path I can walk so that I can find joy in the life I live now – rather than mourning the desires that I won’t ever fulfill. And I won’t fulfill them because even though that restlessness encourages them, I actually don’t want to fulfill them when it comes down to it. What I want – what I truly want – is to feel the kind of unrelenting happiness that I’ve only ever felt under certain circumstances.
These circumstances were perfectly expressed to me when I was 18 years old by a very good friend of mine. She said she wanted to feel like she had a clean heart. I immediately recognized both the feeling she was referring to and the desire to feel that way as something I also wanted. I’ve contemplated this a lot over the last decade or so, and it always comes down to the fact that my heart feels clean when I’m living in accordance with my most basic good intentions. Whether or not I succeed, so long as I am making my best efforts, a small glimpse of that unrelenting happiness keeps me satisfied.
So I’ve chosen this life. It is a life that requires an awareness of actions, intentions, thoughts, and so much more. Claiming this life and even just trying to live it properly has awoken me to the fact that self-reflection and contemplation are inescapable. It is upon these two foundation stones that I am able to build up my intentions, which ultimately bear fruit in actions. And it is the actions that I perform in accordance with my deepest intentions that form a life that allow me to feel like I have a clean heart.
Over the past year I have grappled with the anxiety-inducing concepts of perfection and expectations. I have come to realize that my expectations of myself are far greater than those that exist outside of me, and that the only determining factor on this path (and I suppose any path – only I just romanticize everything else and it all seems so much easier), are my intentions and the subsequent effort put into realizing those intentions.
Whether or not they are actualized, the efforts made in pursuit of fully living in accordance with my intentions are far more potent than any theoretical faith. And even if my prayers are done by rote, and my actions can get tired, and my attitude suffers for over-exposure to humanity’s imperfections, claiming my life and aligning my intentions with the realities of this life has been one of the most fruitful pursuits I have ever engaged in.
Finding out that I am happier when I successfully complete my entire set of prayers – feeling devotional or not, and do yoga, meditate, and write daily was a revelation, and I have now committed to forgoing sleep in order to make time for this. Understanding that the nature of service isn’t always in completing actions perfectly but in finding an attitude of willingness has created so much relaxation and stress relief in my life, and I am so grateful.
Waking up each morning intending to trust the universe and its inhabitants (rather than entering into every interaction suspecting that I am being judged as inadequate) has created a sense of belonging that has eluded me for most of my life.
Overall, my intentions aren’t necessarily the purest, or best, but they are set based upon much contemplation and, frankly, awkward experiences that have guided me away from the things I recognize I don’t want.
My intentions are deeply personal, and often changing, but living this life by walking with intention will always be among them.
Writer, Thinker, Cook, Fixer, Traveler, Lover of life, with a stare-you-down look that is capable of making you rethink the mischief that you are about to engage in.
Written for Walking With Intention. Leave a comment and let Kripa know what you felt about her take on the subject, and then head over to A Thing of Grace and find out what she’s got going on over there.
Featured Artwork by Bhagavati Sasha Kerzhentceva. Check her out at http://www.kerzhentceva.com/