Ramana Maharshi advocates inquiring into the self to find communion with God. He teaches that if you keep asking “Who am I?” deeply enough, persistently enough, and intently enough, you will shatter the incarnational illusions of “i,” the separative little ego, and get to “I am all that is.” It’s a path of discipline toward liberation.
When I ask myself, “Who am I?” I just don’t get that far. I’m still on the journey, I guess. Not disciplined enough. Caught up in the murk and mire of embodiment.
But the journey is worth taking, and it’s fascinating to me to witness the answers that come up at different points in my life. “I am a mother,” is among the top two responses that arise these days. There was a time…before dinosaurs roamed the planet…that I wasn’t someone’s mom. There’s no going back to that time; having had children, I can no longer imagine my life without them. If something suddenly happened and my children were gone forever, I wouldn’t want life. Every parent knows exactly what I mean. Life is demarcated completely and irrevocably by this universal, simple act of having a child.
And so the heart is tangled into a web of love and caretaking, expectation and responsibility, hurt and joy. Does that tangle bind us more deeply into the earth plane, into the opposite of liberation? Isn’t it supposed to be one way out?
So it is with all these questions that I watch as my oldest daughter struggles with her demons, and projects many of them onto other people, as we all do from time to time. By other people, I mostly mean me, her mom, the one nearest at hand, whom she knows will always be there for her, no matter what she says or does. It’s partly her process of individuation; she’s off to college in seven months. She’s got to define herself as separate from me in order to have a distinct core in which to stand when she finds herself on her own. We both know it’s coming.
It hurts to watch her struggle. She shoots herself in the foot, accomplishes miracles, sabotages herself relentlessly, goes out and makes a concrete difference for better in the world, commits acts of extraordinary compassion and cruelty, all at the same time. All while frequently blaming me for both real and imaginary hurts, all while wanting my approval and hating herself for that want.
And how do I respond as she does her thing? At the launch party for IMMORTAL last week, I spoke openly of looking for communion with God in every moment. I then apologized for sounding hokey, because it does. I’ll have to find a less embarrassing way–for me and whoever’s listening–to phrase this sentiment. How do I reconcile my spiritual pursuits with my human responses? Isn’t that always the question?
My friend Vedic astrologer Komilla Sutton, knowing I am undergoing the dreaded transit of Saturn to my moon, called sade sati in Vedic astrology, and that my daughter has the difficult transit of Saturn to her Venus, had a puja done for us at a temple of Saturn the last time she was in India. I had sent money for only one puja so the priest lit a single candle during an ancient and lovely ritual. He commented that my daughter has a very good moon, and then something rare and wonderful happened: the wick split into two, so there were two flames off the one candle. Komilla wrote me that it was very beautiful. But perhaps, in the moment of the wick parting to make two lights, it felt a flash of pain.

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