During my childhood, the former African nation of Biafra was in the midst of civil war and a great famine. A million people died of starvation.
One day, I heard a news story about the relief efforts. A helicopter pilot responsible for dropping food into the war-torn area described how he had seen villagers fighting over grains of rice, scattered in the dirt during the food drop. This story made a deep impression. I still cannot measure rice into a cup without thinking of it, and if a grain falls onto the countertop, I make certain that it gets into the pot, that it does not go to waste.
Tantrik sadhana begins with learning about how we waste our energy, our Shakti. We must become aware of how we waste energy with inappropriate speech, eating, sleeping, and working habits, draining relationships and compulsive thoughts. Simultaneously, we learn how to conserve our energy through relaxing or transforming the karmic patterns that shape our everyday lives.
I am not making an analogy here between conserving Shakti and conserving food or other resources. There is no analogy. They are the same. All of life is Shakti. Wasting your breath is, on a fundamental level, no different from throwing out food that could be eaten or composted. Both are expressions of the experience of separation from flowing presence. The more attuned with the whole we become, the more aware we are of the direct relationship between these “wasted” moments and our distraction from flowing presence.
Through sadhana, we bring ourselves into conscious harmony with the natural state, and we consequently become more graceful.
We also become more aware of moments of lack of gracefulness. What seemed before to be normal and unremarkable—dumping our bad mood on our relatives and friends, breaking a glass, tripping on the curb, forgetting an appointment, getting into the same old exhausting situation with a lover, throwing away “leftover” food or going on a weekend pizza binge—now stand out as clumsy, graceless notes, out of harmony with the whole.
Many great teachers and siddhas are renowned for their ability to conduct themselves with utter precision, efficiency and appropriateness.
Anandamayi Ma organized huge public ritual events that went off perfectly in every detail. Her devotees often remarked that there was always exactly the correct amount of food—exactly enough for each person. Each of these beings points to and teaches us about the gracefulness and precision that characterizes the unimpeded natural state. As we wise up, we also waste less.
In Ma’s love,