My flight leaves India at four in the morning, which is typical of how India works. I decide not to go to sleep at all that night, but to spend the whole evening in one of the meditation caves, in prayer. I'm not a late-night person by nature, but something in me wants to stay awake for these last hours at the Ashram. There are many things in my life I've stayed up all night to do--to make love, to argue with someone, to drive long distances, to dance, to cry, to worry (and sometimes all those things, in fact, in the course of one night)--but I've never sacrificed sleep for a night of exclusive prayer. Why not now?
I pack my bag and leave it by the temple gate, so I can be ready to grab it and go when the taxi arrives before dawn. And then I walk up the hill, I go into the meditation cave and I sit. I'm alone in there, but I sit where I can see the big photograph of Swamiji, my Guru's master, the founder of this Ashram, the long-gone lion who is somehow still here. I close my eyes and let the mantra come. I climb down that ladder into my own hub of stillness. When I get there, I can feel the world halt, the way I always wanted it to halt when I was nine years old and panicking about the relentlessness of time. In my heart, the clock stops and the calendar pages quit flying off the wall. I sit in silent wonder at all I understand. I am not actively praying. I have become a prayer. I can sit here all night.
In fact, I do.
I don't know what alerts me when it's time to go meet my taxi, but after several hours of stillness, something gives me a nudge, and when I look at my watch it's exactly time to go. I have to fly to Indonesia now. How funny and strange. So I stand up and bow before the photograph of Swamiji--the bossy, the marvelous, the fiery. And then I slide a piece of paper under the carpet, right below his image. On the paper are the two poems I wrote during my four months in India. These are the first real poems I've ever written. A plumber from New Zealand encouraged me to try poetry for once--that's why it happened. One of these poems I wrote after having been here only a month. The other, I just wrote this morning.
In the space between the two poems, I have found acres of grace.