This was my first time living in India. It was a typical story of going to study yoga, philosophy and sanskrit. I was like a dry sponge, soaking up everything I could. I felt thirsty for anything that might bring me closer to God, and I was searching for the answers everywhere else but myself. At the time I was looking for ways to make myself better. Growth was synonymous with criticism. If I just did it right, then I'd be ok. My focus was completely taken up by what was "wrong", seeing myself with an editing eye.
While I was there, I was living in an apartment with a revolving door of Westerners, complete with a library of discarded "spiritual" books. One of these had a short story about a man visiting India, specifically going to bathe in the Ganges River.*
The Mother Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus. They bathe in it, drink it, make offerings to it, take it home for their altar. It is said to remove all sin, and being cremated on it lifts one out of the cycle of reincarnation. It has also come to be quite polluted.
In this story, this man was visiting the river to bathe in it. However, once he was in the boat, he was filled with trepidation about going into something so polluted, and he expressed this to his guide. His guide's response went something like this: "This river is pure and sacred. It's the dirt that's dirty." In that moment, the man experienced satori, an awakening moment, and he jumped in.
This line, "it's the dirt that's dirty", has stayed with me all these years. Friends, we are full of dirt from the past. We carry it around with us, either denying it is there, or overly fixating on it. We have tools to work with it, we have stories that accompany it. And most of us would love to see it gone.
But we are also the sacred river. We are pure divinity. We are bigger than the past or the future. We are the present moment, clean and refreshing, and always now. We are good, we are both a part of yet beyond incarnation, and the dirt is what is dirty.
This doesn't take away from our accountability with the dirt. We learn ways of working with it, of letting it move on. Of creating some space around it. However, do not fall into the trap that we are defined by it. It informs us, but it is not us. And as we work with it, can we keep our eye on the sacredness of our being? The pure wonder of our bodies and the cells that create them? The way the soul moves through and merges with the physical. We are miracles. Even with, or perhaps because of, our dirt.
[* I have searched and searched for these stories since, but cannot find them anywhere. I can only remember the barest of bones from the story, but if anyone is familiar with it, please let me know! I always want to give credit where credit is due.]