I attended a conference last weekend at the Manhattan Borough Community College called Transitions and Transactions II: Literature and Creative Writing Pedagogies in Community Colleges. The paper I presented is called “Open Your Heart to the World” : Risk and Vulnerability in Teaching Ancient World Literature in the Community College. The quote is from the Tao and here’s the context:
Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.
These lines are particularly relevant to me, as someone who, given the choice, prefers to see the essence of the Tao from within rather than from without. For me to spend a weekend in New York at a conference is an uneasy proposition (see Poetry and Porousness!), and yet it was a rich experience for me on so many levels. The most significant has to do with my own transition as a result of the transaction of sharing my paper.
The paper is about mutuality. I mean mutuality as it’s used in Waking Down in Mutuality, defined by that organization’s Teacher’s Association as “a whole Being relationship disposition that holds BOTH self and others as equally valid and equally valuable expressions of Being. It can be practiced by any two or more people who care about their relationships with each other and want to find a deeper meeting.” As a college teacher, I bring mutuality to my classroom as a way to facilitate learning.
That “deeper meeting” is becoming more active in my life, the ways in which Being is opening me to meet the world more deeply. I submitted the paper under my “given” or family name, Crystal Bacon, the name I still go by at work and pretty much everywhere but my spiritual community which, oddly enough, includes Facebook and this Blog. I had a name tag that said Crystal Bacon, and the bio the moderator read described this same person, Crystal Bacon. Just looking at that cluster of letters is like seeing a familiar face in passing. There’s an identity to it, a story, a history.
It was ironic to me, as I sat listening to the credentials and achievements of this Crystal Bacon, that I was about to get up and read a paper about authenticity. An image popped into my head of a sort of Tinker Toy-like crane from which an piece dangled, a sort of falling away of a kind of armature. It was about my name. After the session, the moderator said that she had tried to find my Blog but couldn’t. I had to tell her that it was under a different name, Subhaga Crystal Bacon. And this took me into a deeper investigation about who that is.
The name Subhaga was given to me by my guru, Mata Amritanandamayi known as Amma about six years ago at the Boston retreat, one of a half dozen that, in addition to public programs, make up Amma’s summer tour. It comes from the Lalita Sahasranama, the 1000 names of the Divine Mother: Om Subhagayai Namah, She who is auspicious. For the next few years, it was a name that I only used between Amma and myself in prayer and meditation. I thought of it as the name Amma knew me by. It felt foreign to me, hard to pronounce. I was not very committed to it.
Until I had my awakening. This is one of those stories that could get longer and longer in the telling, sort of telescoping itself out from one stage to the next. But once I had my awakening, and the identity of Crystal had fallen away, the name Subhaga seemed much more resonant. One day, reading the Amma magazine called Immortal Bliss, I ran across an article about Amma’s favorite younger brother, whose name is Subhagan. That sealed the deal.
There’s a way in which any name is not the true name. This is a fitting link back to the Tao which begins on that very point: The way that can be named is not the true Way. And yet, in this Third Dimension human realm, it is useful to name things. The Buddhists say of the Dhamma, “words fall silent before it.” And yet whole libraries have been filled trying to explain it.
The name Subhaga Crystal Bacon reflects the journey of awakening into consciousness. It marks the serious start of the search at the feet of my guru, through the deepening interior search of meditation and finally the falling away of the constructed self. Of course, I know that Crystal is a much more than serviceable name. It is a beautiful faceted name, a reflector of light. And that is who and what I am too. But joined with Subhaga, auspicious, fortunate, it feels more complete. It feels more like what I know myself to be from the inside.
Om Subhagayai Namah!