This is the time of the festival of Navaratri, nine nights as it is called in South India, and Dasara as it is called in the North. The goddess in every form is celebrated, and in the south, women and girls are especially honored as depicting the goddess. They are given gifts, bangles, bindis, and everyone wears silk. There are elaborate rangoli designs in colored rice flour outside the house and the waft of jasmine and betal leaves floats by in the house, along with chundal – a traditional lentil dish with cocount made every evening with different types of lentils and beans each day.
Living in the states, I have sporadically celebrated this festival in small ways – making a sweet dish, wearing something nice etc. Since my husband isn’t super traditional and we don’t usually have time off, there isn’t much of a motivation. Usually, the indian community hosts a celebration but I have been to it only once in the past decade of living here. This year, at the last minute, I decided we should go – Anjali and I. So I pulled out our indian clothes from the trunk and we dressed up the way I did as a child, wearing bangles, bindis and beautiful clothes, me a saree and Anjali a salwar suit.
Get there we did – and Anji loved the ‘music time’ and danced and jumped up and down as garba music played on the speakers. (Garba is a dance from the North, especially for this festival where men and women dance going around in a big circle). She wore a black tunic embroidered with gold and maroon and looked like a small goddess herself. We even went around the circle a couple of times dancing together mother and daughter. We had to leave early for bed time, but just to see her dressed up in indian outfit was worth the trip, that along with seeing some dear friends.
I’m going to indian celebrations and making halloween costume (never done that before in my ten years in this country!) for my little one. I never cease to be surprised by what motherhood brings.
Wishing you beauty, peace and light-filled days and nights,
‘This being human is a guest house,
every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.’
I memorized these words from ‘Guest House’ by Rumi. This poem is so resonant of the experience of being human. How there is a certain ‘wonder’ about it – we never know what each day is going to bring. Literally. We have no way of knowing! Some days have it all in packets of it – the joy, the depression and the meanness. The wounds and the hurt. The gratitude and the amazement. How do we hold it all? How do we stand there as the wind blows and keep our jackets? Maybe we don’t.
He goes on to say ‘welcome and entertain them all even if they are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.’ Maybe it is a good thing for the furniture to go. For the house to become empty. For our selves to dissolve. The harder we hold on to our ‘selves’ and identity, the more it hurts to let them go. And the more peace we feel when we do become naked.
Rumi goes on to say: ‘the dark thought, the shame, the malice – meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.’ What a revolutionary thought! To be okay with the malice and darkness of our hearts. To invite them in, instead of turning them away at the door with a broomstick the way we customarily like to do! To be okay with the loneliness and pain that accompanies being human, for it does, as much as the happiness and joy does. To embrace the spectrum of human life – because we can, because we are alive, and because this heart can feel!!
He ends by saying, ‘Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond’. This is hard practice. It involves surrender and grace. Unconditional Love and unquestionable self-worth. Trust. And this trust is what allows us to finally BE – dance with life as it unfolds.
May we find our ways in this Universe with Love,
I was about 12 years old, when I overheard my Grandma and one of my cousins talking about Hanuman. They were saying how chanting Hanuman Chalisa, in praise of Hanuman the monkey God, made one brave and courageous like him. At the time, I was quite shy and afraid of many things. So I took it to heart and decided to learn the chant. Everyday, I would chant Hanuman Chalisa while bicyling to school. I believed in the prayer. and I did become more brave – my faith in Hanuman was complete. I chanted the shloka every day through college. When I came to the US, I stopped, not by any particular choice, it just happened that way. And then when I got pregnant, I thought of Hanuman again. I needed to get through this new phase with love, and not fear. and Hanuman could help me do that. The Hanuman of my heart always did.
Stories of Hanuman abound – he is the mighty, courageous, brave son of the Wind God. And also generous, wise and humble devotee of Lord Ram. His devotion to Lord Rama was utter and pure. He climbed mountains and crossed Oceans for Ram. There are many pictures of Hanuman as worshipped in mythology – of him carrying the Sanjeevani mountain – the entire mountain of herbs to cure Lakshman, Ram’s brother. Of him by the feet of Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman. The one I have, which is one of my favorites, is of him hugging Ram. The embrace says it all – the friendship, love and devotion that is possible on the path. The merging of the devotee with the God. A faith that is beyond doubt.
This morning, looking at the picture, my heart filled with that love and joy again. Anjali was in my lap, studying all the pictures in the altar studiously. And then as I explained the magic of Hanuman to her, she smiled at me – like she understood completely. She got it!
May we bring the Hanuman of our hearts alive…
with Love, Shuba.
Watching her grow
this tiny being
is a miracle!
Seeing her engage, play,
study her surroundings
with earnest intensity…
Her clear gaze
Her beautiful smile
Her endless curiosity
She watches her hands move
She plays with her fingers
She dances with her feet
Close her eyes, she won’t!
Falling asleep, she resists
But when she does,
It is like the angels
have come into my home.
How can we stay connected to the underlying sense of peace and ease in the middle of chaos and change? By using every moment of witnessing disconnection as an opportunity to become present.
Its like the mind: it gets distracted. That is its fundamental nature. It jumps from one thing to another, builds mountains from molehills, is highly imaginative in setting up scenarios which never happen. This is totally okay, if we know that this is simply its nature. It is doing what it is good at. And sometimes, its amazing how creative the mind can be. We of course get caught in the stories of the mind over and over again. And yet it is the realization that we are caught that has the capacity to bring us back again to the present moment. So getting caught is good! It is the window of opportunity we have to become awake again.
Awake, alive, alight
shining brightly this light
in a dark dark room
a magical sight
Witnessing these moments is the juice of the practice of mindfulness. Its when we know its working. When we can be with disconnection and simply accept it for what it is, that is when we know we are truly present!
And then the magic happens. From this witnessing arises beautiful action. wisdom. Its like a white-board. There is all this writing on it that seems so solid. And all it takes is an eraser, and its all gone! The white board is now empty, clear, reminding us of the freedom that is possible. We will write again on the board, it will again become cluttered. probably in no time. But we know – that it can become empty again. All it needs is for us to notice. and reach for that eraser. That is the moment of truth.
May we play with the chaos of life in new creative ways that enlighten and enliven us.
with warmth, S.
One little crow
on top of the bare branches
against the blue sky
nothing special: except
for the one watching
one tiny seed
of become awake
in the middle of the din
nothing special: except
for the one witnessing
one small candle
of flame that shines
lighting up the dark
nothing special: except
for the one seeing
The dark places. we have all seen them, been in them. and we know. the dark gets pretty dark. and lonely. and yet…necessary. for without the dark, how can we appreciate the light ? the light we take oh! so for granted.
When we are in the dark, we forget that the dark is really the other side of light. the light of understanding. for in the dark, we really have an opportunity to understand something about ourselves, that we don’t see in the light.
perhaps it is the courage we have in the dark of fear. perhaps Love in the dark of loneliness. the spirit in the depths of doubt. the acceptance in the depths of uncertainty. something to hold on to, that arises from the depths of the dark and leads us to the light. it is always there, but more so in the dark. and this becomes visible. somehow the light of the dark illuminates our deepest being and brings the hidden into the open.
it is hard when you are in the dark places in life, to know that it is simply what it is. a necessity, and a fact of life. not as a way to grinding our teeth and getting through it, but as simple and elementary as the breath having an in and an out. and that knowledge comes in handy. last evening, in yoga, a wave of deep longing for my home, my childhood, all the things that I loved about my past came up. it wasn’t images, it was a deep ache for that which has passed. and somehow in the wake of the pain, a knowing spontaneously arose: ah. longing. this is what longing feels like. and staying with it that way allowed me to be with it. and see it end. and joy arise. for there is always both. the fact of life. the in and out of the breath.
the light and the dark. which is which becomes unclear as we start dancing with both. A quote I read recently: ‘life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. it is about learning to dance in the rain’.
with Love, S.