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The Mind. The Myths. The Method. Mantra.

The festival Diwali is marked by this month’s new moon, which falls today, Nov 4th at 2:15pm Pacific.

Most consider Diwali to commemorate the return of dharma, recorded in spiritual literature (The Ramayana) by the return of Ram to the kingdom of Ayodhya after many years of exile with his brother Lakshmana, his wife Sita, and Hanuman the monkey god, Ram’s faithful servant (who really has saved the day). The central idea in this story is the value of faith and devotion (Jai Hanuman!) in addressing the omnipresent theme of good conquering evil.

The auspicious return of dharma is celebrated throughout the Hindu world by the adornment of homes, and the lighting of lamps.

Diwali also commemorates the rising of Lakshmi in a long and involved myth called Samudra Manthana (churning the ocean of milk). The myth is a metaphor for the churning of consciousness in the hopes of finding Amrita, the elixir of immortality.

As luck would have it, the practice of yoga dips its infinite ladle into the soup of karmas, and as it stirs, all the old toxins arise. This should sound familiar. We think yoga/meditation will provide a safe and gentle path until we walk a few steps and realize it will give us back to ourselves completely, and that we’d better buckle up!

In the myth, the poison that arises is called samsara halahala, and it brings the world to the brink. Ultimately, Śiva must step in, but in the meantime, Lakshmi, a field of consciousness marked by unconditional, infinite abundance, also arises.

Today is also a day for Kali Puja. Kali is the dark mother, the mother of dissolution. I’ve written about her before, on the blog.

So, lots of options. How to celebrate?

It depends. I woke up with Kali. So with Kali we look at our own intrapsychic obstacles and offer them up to the Goddess.

But first, clean up your house, make it beautiful, light candles, and chant mantra. Any mantra that you've received or which has come alive for you works. Lakshmi, Hanuman, and Kali mantras are particularly fitting.

If you've got no time, or you gotta work, or the house is too unruly to tackle, remember: Your own heart is the deep refuge. Light a candle there, and feel the warmth of light within the blessed potency of the darkness. Open up to what you cannot illuminate, too. Everything has its moment, and befriending the darkness is part of the play. Be with it all.

Also, in the spirit of non-duality, recall that nothing is outside yourself. These aforementioned "deities" are immanent as much as transcendent. They represent fields of energy that abide within you. So look over which of these energies appeals.

Hanuman is the capacity for faith, for devotion, and for deep strength. Hanuman transcends the mind and relies on willingness and instinct as he takes a giant leap across the ocean to bring the herb that saves Sita (a manifestation of Lakshmi) and thus saves the world from imminent demise.

Lakshmi is the unconditioned abundance that has no bounds. The world cannot thrive without her continual grace. She is generosity, emergence, regeneration, and infinite beauty.

Kali is the womb, the void, the portal that gives us entry into a new cycle. She comes so you can offer up your shame, your fear, your self-abnegation. She wants you to offer up all the ways you play small, all the ways you diminish yourself and dim your own light. You can offer up your debilitating habits, all the ways you numb yourself. Offer it all up to be transformed.

We are all wandering through the unknown; it is the essential nature of life to be in flux. It’s very confusing, and the mind doesn't cope well. Our minds grasp for control, for stability. Hence, the tradition gives us myths about how to steady ourselves on the path, and it gives us mantra, the ultimate methodology for liberating grasping mind.

When I first came to practice in my 20’s, my teacher said something along the lines of, “We are here for annihilation.” That felt awful to me. I felt like throwing up, or running, or both.

But the wisdom of it has done its work. I realize she was talking about how the ego wants to grip, to hold, to know, to control, but we can do none of that successfully. Ultimately, life's generosity is beyond our control, so even though we might feel ourselves awash in suffering, spiritual practice gradually brings the ego-mind to a place of surrender.

May we soften and take in all the abundance that the unknown offers up. May we feel ourselves as a source of light in the world, and may we soften towards the brilliance of the darkness.

Let's practice so together this Sunday:

Sunday Sessions: Stretch, Sit, Write, and Spark Change First Gathering: Nov 7th, 8:00 - 9:30 am PST

Meeting ID: 873 3648 1320

Passcode: Ritual

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