“After the ecstasy, the laundry.” In those few words author Jack Kornfield captured the essence of the seeker’s search for that “something else” and the back-to-reality recognition that, having tasted it even fleetingly, one cannot escape the laundry of life that awaits us in this 3-D world.
Go ahead and taste the ecstasy. Savor it. Relish every moment of it. But don’t forget to wash your underwear.
Kornfield’s popular title rings in my ears as I return home after an 18-day sojourn chasing the bhav from one end of the country to the other. The Bhakti Beat’s Big Bhavalicious Adventure took us from Omega’s Ecstatic Chant in the heart of the “Bhajan Belt” in Rhinebeck, N.Y., to the high desert of Joshua Tree, Cali. for the 4th Annual Bhakti Fest West, and then back East to the cornfields of Pennsylvania for Sat Nam Fest, the kundalini yoga and chant retreat organized by Spirit Voyage Music. Sandwiched in between was the NYC premeire of Jeremy Frindel’s new documentary, “One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das.”
That’s a lot of kirtan, even for a confessed junkie.
I savored it. Relished every moment. And in the end, couldn’t wait to come home, with a resolute determination to bring the bhav right back with me. Surely this immersion in the ocean of devotion, this tidal wave of spiritual energy generated from the ultimate Kirtan Trifecta — or Tri-Festa, as GuruGanesha Singh labeled my journey — would keep me high on life for days, weeks, maybe even months, right? Right?
Ha. Tell that to the dirty underwear. And the stack of bills screaming for my attention. And the deadlines looming for the day job that pays the stack of bills. Videos to edit, pictures to post, blogs to write. A boyfriend who has forgotten what I look like and secretly wants to heave my laptop out the window. And so on.
The crash came hard and fast. Leaving me wondering: Where’s the bhav now?
This, I gather, is where that “great magic trick of existence” comes in…how to “snatch the eternal from the desperately fleeting,” as Tennessee Williams wrote. How to sustain the “blissful love or loving bliss,” as the religious studies scholar David Haberman defined “the bhav” in a workshop at Bhakti Fest, even when the fest is over and we’re faced with the unpleasant minutiae of daily life.
Krishna Das has said it in so many workshops: “When you leave here, you’ve still got to pay the bills.” His advice? “Practice.” He doesn’t care if you chant, meditate, do asanas…whatever; just do something. “There’s a reason they call it practice,” he always says. You’ve got to do it. As in, every day, chant fest or no.
Note to self: a crowd of 5,000 isn’t required. A festival of One works too.
Shyamdas, the respected author, Sanskrit scholar, and master of Hare Katha (sacred teachings interwoven with bhav-inducing kirtan) was asked what it means to “be in the bhav” during the Bhakti Panel workshop on Day 4 of Bhakti Fest. Among other gems you can hear in the video below, he said this:
“The bhav makes us understand that there is eternity within the present moment, and that makes the individual unconcerned with what is going to happen next, because everything is already a perfect manifestation as it is.”
In the bhav, Shyamdas told us, “everything is directed for the pleasure of the Beloved.” By which he means the Supreme. The Divine. It matters not if you call it God, Krishna, Christ, Grace, Universal Oneness, Higher Self — label it as you will, or not at all. The point is that when everything we do is offered up to the greater good, then — and only then — can we get anywhere near the bhav.
Need a pay-off? Shyamdas says: “When a person can have that attitude, I think they receive a response from the Source Bhav.”
“A response from the Source Bhav.” I like the sound of that. I want that.
A remarkable woman I met on my journey, Tulasi Devi Dasi (whose husband, Purusartha Dasa, plays bass for The Hanumen), made this exact point to me a week before I heard Shyamdas say it, in a casual breakfast conversation at Omega the morning after four days of Ecstatic Chant. She told an innocuous story of a large gathering at their home in the community of Krishna devotees in Alachua, Fla. She said all the preparation and labors were seen not as effort, but as joy, because all was done in service to Krishna. Every act, no matter how small, was offered up as a prayer to the Beloved.
Her words had that goosebump effect on me. You know, that tingly “hit” you get when something resonates deeply in your soul. I nearly wept right there in the cafeteria. (Chanting for four days will do that to you.)
Tulasi’s words stayed with me.
“I offer my service to Krishna” became my mantra (I would interchange Krishna with Christ, God, Universal Oneness, The Divine, because to me they are all one). I did this as I posted pictures. I did it as I wrote emails and returned phone calls. I did it as I sweated my way through NY rush-hour traffic to make my flight at JFK after Google Maps sent me on a ridiculously convoluted route. And so on.
Well, call me crazy, but you know what? Doors started opening. Interviews came through. Connections were made. Relationships were healed with a hug. Helpful people were showing up precisely at the right time. Oh yeah, and I made the plane. With perfect timing.
I ran into Tulasi again on Day 3 of Bhakti Fest, five days later and 3,000 miles from our breakfast chat. I told her how she had inspired me with her words, how it had made all the difference. We hugged. I wept. She wept. (Chanting for eight days will do that to you.)
So here’s what I’ve learned…
You can chase the bhav all you want — and you might even snatch it for a fleeting moment. But until you can find that sweet spot of devotion and gratitude, that attitude that life is a gift — that “ever-expansive loving feeling that we’re all thirsting for,” as Haberman put it — right in your own home, your own heart, even with the stack of bills screaming and the deadlines looming and the boyfriend glowering, you’re just running on empty.
Make your life a prayer. Then stand back and watch what unfolds.
Or, as Bhakti Fest founder and executive producer Sridhar Silberfein so says:
“Do what you can. Then get out of the way and let Grace take over.”
Additional Coverage from The Bhakti Beat’s Big Bhavalicious Adventure to Omega Chant, Bhakti Fest West and Sat Nam Fest East: Bringing Home The Bhav: Bhakti-Fried Bliss-Chaser Faces ‘The Laundry’ of Life (Video) Wallah to Watch: Jai-Jagdeesh, Songstress & Classical Dance Artist, Dazzles at Sat Nam Fest (Videos) With Deva’s Miten, Krishna Das Does Dylan & Shyamdas Does the Blues (Videos) ‘It Is Not Dying:’ Geoffrey Gordon (1952-2012) Remembered in Bhakti Fest Tributes and Haunting Video Photo Journals from all 3 festivals on our facebook page. Check our YouTube channel for the latest video uploads. Stay tuned to this site for more coverage coming soon! Subscribe here.
Brenda, wonderful article! Thank you for sharing so openly your experience of the aftermath of “the laundry” – I know all us bhav chasers can identify. Lots of love to you and can’t wait to read about the rest of your adventures.