Life takes me to places sometimes I would not on my own choose to go to—and these routes always fill my life with details--frequencies--that my conscious brain did not know I needed.
This Spring, I find myself teaching three graduate-level courses. One of these courses is an elective on Women and Tantra with the Women's Spirituality Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). When I was asked to teach it, I knew it would be a continuation of the ancestral healing, learning, apprenticeship I had entered into with my PhD dissertation. In the dissertation, I signalled tantra as one of the ancient pathways women in India had walked that honored their voices, vitality, and authority. Now, as I teach this class, I find myself arriving at a new rapprochement with tantra as a living tradition and methodology. In the process, I am realizing how my inner/outer practice—in the living, experiencing—has slowly been integrating the central tenets of Tantric thought. Life is truly a beautiful unfolding guided by the psyche in its collective, ancestral, interconnected, and arriving aspects—we can trust that we will get where we need to as long as there is an openness in us to be responsive. We don't have to plan it all.
Syllabi, however, do need to be planned. I am grateful to the scholars, practitioners, artists who have created texts imprinted with their seeing and investigations that will now create opportunities for others' voyages, contemplation (riffing off Lao-tzu). And, a reconstruction of women's wisdom lines from South Asia must surely be a collective voyage—not just because many of our wounds have been collective. The deeper I go, the more I encounter inhabitants traversing the deep waters.
Here then are a few scholar-practitioners I included in my Women and Tantra syllabus:
Neela Bhattacharya Saxena, who I met at her talk, "Kali the Evolutionary Force: Philosophy and Praxis for Our Times"—organized in 2019, serendipitously, a week after I had a vision in which Kali asked me to open up to her.
Rita Dasgupta Sherma, who was gracious enough to recommend some of the formative texts in Tantra.
Madhu Khanna, who I met in 2014 at her talk, "Reading Kali and the Tantric Way: What Would Kali Do?" and subsequently for a rushed coffee in New Delhi.
Lata Mani, who was initiated into an awakening to Devi, the Divine Mother, through her illness, and found her critical feminist frameworks transformed/expanded through this contact into a nondual orientation.
Mani Rao, fellow poet and scholar, who found a living legacy of mantras among practitioners in the Andhra-Telangana region coming from vedic and tantric contexts.
Vak (Vac) has been knocking on my door. Here is an invocation to Vak I wrote for the Reclaiming Spiral Dance. Kabir too has a lot to say about sabda--the true word—and this was part of the talk I gave at the Oakland Summer School, and the workshop I taught at the AAWAA.
To continue tending to this relationship with the word, I am also bringing in translations of poems/songs by practitioners such as Lal Ded (translated by Ranjit Hoskote) and Yeshe Tsogyel.
Since this class entails both critical and experiential components, I get to bring in earth-based/somatic practices so as to invite the students into an awareness of their connectedness with the living cosmos in an embodied, enfleshed way.
So here we are. The semester is underway. I am so curious about where this will take all of us who have come together in the circle/container of this class.
I am delighted to announce that my new chapbook Ordinary Annals is forthcoming from above/ground press. The chapbook, which includes my poems written during 2020, should be out in the next three months. Please check back for updates!
There can never be a single solution, answer, arc to any human situation in this dreaming. We are too unique. We are too emergent. We are too much of the Earth, who is always changing, always becoming new. There is no one path. There is no one panacea. There is no classification or categorization that is universal. What works for one body or psyche (individual or collective, human or nonhuman) will not, cannot work for another. Replacing "them" with "us" is not the point (thank you to Sherri Mitchell for the reminder today to divest from conquest thinking). Getting along despite the differences, making new that is emerging from the relationship, its bed of creativity, is the point. Rooted in relationship, itself, is the sensing of boundaries, the need to protect resources, stability.
If you think you've come up with something new, it is very likely to have had a counterpart or origins or template in the past. No arrogance for novelty or universalism withstands scrutiny.
2020 was the year I:
- started in bed—after an abrupt breakup that affected my financial and immigration future—from where I wrote a January first post, determined to take back the authorship of my life.
- taught my first university class and realized how much I enjoyed the interactive, dialogic aspects of teaching, and how gratifying it was to teach what I had learned about writing and research in my PhD journey.
- was approved for a US visa I applied for after scanning countries around the world for their responses to COVID19 and commitment to diversity, and felt how much my colleagues and seniors in the field of poetry/writing valued my work and arc through letters of reference they wrote in support of my O1 application.
- fostered a kitten, fell in love with her there that first night when she sat on my lap with a cold and eye infection necessitating an elaborate herbal regimen, told her to get better if she also wanted to stay with me because I would not have the capacity to care for a chronic infection—the kitten honored our pact and got better and I adopted her and we are family now.
- was taught in loving a cat to be okay with my wanting to do a lot of loving and healed a layer of attachment beliefs.
- took responsibility for my financial well-being.
- got a professional artists' grant.
- published poems in four journals and an anthology, published an article and an essay, gave a conference presentation and two poetry readings, gave a talk, taught a workshop, and recorded poems for two digital spaces.
- wrote a book proposal to get my dissertation published as a book and got an invitation to submit from a scholar-editor I admire.
- revised a poetry manuscript.
- reread Women Who Run With the Wolves with a group of wild soul women who had accepted my invitation to form a reading group during four months of the pandemic.
- organized a neighborhood-based poetry reading, and started a salon for writers and artists to call forth a decolonial visionary paradigm.
- was held by friends and communities in the flesh and online.
- felt deeply into the heart of the mother and sat in her dark womb and felt my personal practices attuning evermore to the path of the ancient earthsky women walking in her ways on the land of my ancestors.
- started to integrate the many aspects of my being, and realized there is no need for me to figure out the exact/perfect how of being in better service to the worlds.
- had a revelation that straddling different paradigms was out of balance, and committed to a paradigm of "we/me."