On Sahaja and Simplicity: Snakes, Death, and Freedom

A few mornings ago after meditation, a friend came to my kitchen door with a five-foot-long snake held lightly, carefully in her hands. Its sand-colored flesh, with delicate helix design running all along its back, was marred and bloody. It had been pecked and hacked by a bird of prey, possibly the roadrunner that I see every day speeding through the prickly pear and rock rose. Or had it been gnarled and gristled by the local badger that lives in these hills? Its head was somewhat crushed and its eyes looked blank, but the snake clung tenaciously to life, curling its muscular tail around my friend’s arm. We exclaimed over the snake for a time, then she left, snake in hands, with her two companions, also women, to take the snake to a desert shrine to die.

The night before I had heard a story about a Unitarian Church service, lead by the preacher—a woman with a heart-rending gospel voice. She sang a song that moved the audience with its recurring and most penetrating line, “What would it feel like to really be free?” These two events—involving a snake and a question of freedom—made an impact that spurred on these ruminations on sahaja and simplicity. Somehow these things—snakes, death, freedom, simplicity—were linked in my mind, as twilight language, as metaphor.

Wounded and dying snake as doorway to freedom? Once again, Nature was providing signs that gave rise to deeper consideration. Snakes are symbols of transformation because they shed their skin. They symbolize a willingness to die, to shed our skin—who we thought ourselves to be, our identity, identifications, attachments—and this is the doorway to our freedom.

Contemplating these symbols, an active inquiry began (nothing new but asking at a deeper level). What comes first: freedom or simplicity? Are these seemingly intangible elements interdependent? Do I have the simplicity that gives rise to freedom? And on the other hand, do I have the freedom to be simple? Am I able to cultivate simplicity as a doorway to freedom, both in my inner and outer worlds? Does the infrastructure of my outer life support inner freedom? Does the environment of my inner world support freedom in the outer?

Contemplating these symbols, everything in my life that stands in the way of both simplicity and freedom came into focus as aspects of my identity—striving, desires, plans, perceived “needs”—that will have to die. When something dies, it leaves a space, wherein the elegance of simplicity may live and the sweet bird of freedom may soar and dive. To die consciously, I have to let go.

Two mornings later, I heard that the snake recovered and slithered away, back into the wild terrain of desert. Interesting, indeed. Wounded, dying snake will live on to shed her skin another time. And the metaphor goes on, as the inward spiraling path of sahaja continues to offer lures and glimpses toward freedom…

 And, speaking of sahaja and the ancient Sahajiyas, my novel, Krishna’s Heretic Lovers—The Story of Chandidas & Rami, is going to press within days. It should be available from Hohm Press by the end of June at the latest. If you are a reader of this blog, I hope you love the book, and if you are so moved, please feel free to promote it on your website, Facebook or in any way you want. 

To be continued…. Sahaja and Simplicity: Creativity as Refuge