A strange and upsetting thing happened to me in February and I am only now able to tell you about it. Durgananda and Natji went on retreat to Ganeshpuri in India and left me behind. Ganeshpuri is a small town about 2 hours out of Mumbai and is the heart of our yoga lineage. Durgananada says that visiting there is like bathing in a deep pool of shakti. It restores you in a way that nothing else can.
When they left I was a little concerned that Durgananda might stay in India and become a cave yogi. The only reason I didn’t completely freak out when she left is because I know that Durgananda would never leave me. Now, they have finally come home and I can report on my time looking after the Maribyrnong Yoga and Meditation Centre.
To tell you the truth, I was a little upset to not be on this retreat but I didn’t get to indulge in this feeling for too long as I had many important things to do. And I must have done a very good job because as soon as Durgananda walked in the door she noticed how the centre was glowing with Shakti (spiritual energy).
The reason that the Shakti was so well maintained was because I made sure Patricia, who had come over to assist me, kept up the dharma of running a centre.
I’d been listening to what Durgananda says about her time living in an Ashram and one of the things I heard is that dharma is very important. If you are following your dharma you will feel happy and satisfied in your life. If you are not, you will feel out of sorts (kind of like the way I feel when I binge on the butter that’s been left out on the counter). Dharma means right living or right livelihood. Basically, it is doing what is right for you, not in a moralistic or dogmatic sense, but what is appropriate for you, in this moment, at this time, in the place that you are in. Being a cat in a meditation centre can be difficult and sometimes I have trouble finding my dharma. If I was out in the wild I would just hunt and go completely feral but now that I am doing spiritual practice I need to continuously align myself with my higher nature.
Initially, I was rather cross about being left behind and I sulked and refused to participate in the centre’s activities. I also didn’t talk to Patricia except when absolutely necessary and then it was only a swish of the tail to convey essential information like: let me outside or its tuna time – so feed me. I didn’t want to uphold the dharma – I just wanted Natji and Durgananda to come back. I kept up this behaviour for a few days until, one morning, I realised I was rather miserable and I was getting more miserable. Furthermore, my behaviour wasn’t affecting Patricia or making Durgananda and Natji come home. It was only hurting myself. Being grumpy and indolent was draining my Shakti and making me feel bad. I had to acknowledge I was going against the dharma.
I decided that I needed to change my attitude. I had completely lost myself in Bandit cattiness and now needed to find the Shakti again. I had heard Durgananda talk many, many times about how to grow and cultivate the Shakti and, with her being away, I realised that I couldn’t rely on her to maintain the dharma. I was going to have to get with the program and grow the Shakti myself!
I sat down on the window sill, gazing out at the treetops, and contemplated how I was going to do this. I remembered that the Shakti likes regular spiritual practice, so I decided to make sure I kept to a healthy routine. The next day I got up early, with the birds (even though I’d had a late night on possum patrol, watching their movements). I did some yoga asanas, mainly cat and cow and down face dog, until I could feel the prana, life force, flowing in my body. Then I woke Patricia and asked her to let me outside so that I could go and do my morning ablutions. After that, I went for a run, did a little more yoga and then came in for breakfast.
Breakfast has been rather difficult - I haven’t been getting my preferred food so I’m only eating dried pellets. But today was different – there was tuna! Perhaps my change in attitude has also affected the outer world. Patricia has finally understood that I am a Hindu cat and there is no way I am going to eat red meat.
After breakfast I gave myself a good wash and then I went and sat on Durgananda’s meditation chair. I figured this was the best place to meditate as it had already been used so much for meditation. (I also use it as a scratching post, but don’t tell Durgananda – I get into terrible trouble when she catches me). Patricia followed my initiative and meditated with me.
After meditation I set to work maintained the centre: I made sure Patricia got fresh flowers and burnt incense. I checked that the pujas were clean and the deities were happy. I also made sure the possum poo outside got swept away. I even made sure Patricia vacuumed even though I absolutely despise the vacuum cleaner: it’s such a vile and noisy beast and completely lacking in any consciousness. I rearranged the props for yoga and made sure they were neatly aligned. Then I checked that there were no peas hidden under the blankets by having a nap on them. Some people think that doing everyday tasks isn’t spiritual, but that is completely untrue. Any situation and activity can be a spiritual practice when performed with right understanding and feeling.
After a few days of focusing on spiritual practice and maintaining the dharma I started to feel so much better. It was amazing, I still had the feeling of missing Durgananda and Natji but it wasn’t eating me up the way it had been. I felt like my Shakti was back and the more I purrticipated in the programs the better I felt.
Finally Durgananda returned home from India. I had just been beginning to think she was never coming back and I was going to have to be the centre manager forever. When Durgananda and Natji came in the front door I rushed to greet them. I couldn’t stop purring- I had planned to be a little aloof, withdraw my love and ignore them, just to make sure they knew I was upset about being left behind. But I just couldn’t; I was just too overjoyed about seeing them and I loudly and exuberantly chanted the Purrnamidah mantra over and over again (which I’ll tell you more about another time).