Navaratri Altars

Navatratri is a nine day Hindu festival that celebrates three forms of the Goddess, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The tenth day is called Vijaya Dasham, the festival of victory. In 2016 Navaratri was October 1-10.

Friends of mine built a beautiful altar for Navaratri that year. Every item on it had meaning and many of the statues were handmade. I will never forget seeing this altar for the first time; it practically took my breath away. Oh how it sparkled.

You can see pictures of that Navaratri altar at From Darkness to Light.

This year, 2021, Navaratri was October 6-15. One of the friends who built the altar I had seen in 2016, constructed a Navaratri altar at the Woodinville property this year … with the help of two of her friends.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

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Stay Alert: What We Need to Learn Will Be Revealed

I have learned during my life that the answers to our questions are often nearby; Likewise, if we keep our eyes open and stay alert, we will be able to see ways we have been prepared for what is to come. The knowledge that an event was preparation may not be evident until sometime in the future.

Amma has taught me a lot about those things and has given me lots of opportunities to practice them but I also learned from other writers and experiences.

I remember reading that often where there are poisonous plants, the antidote to the poison is a plant that is nearby. I also read that whenever our path crosses someone else’s, we have something to teach them or something to learn from them.

I used to teach a workshop called Lessons on Lessons. There was one exercise where I asked participants to go outside and ask questions of inanimate objects such as rocks, fences, or light poles as well as plants, trees, and animals. And after asking their question, participants “listened” for a response. What amazing wisdom we can gather that way. If you haven’t already tried it, then do!

I learned the benefit of accepting lessons as they come as opposed to resisting them which often results in prolonging the lesson and any pain that comes along with it.

In addition to teaching content related to some of the areas above, Amma also taught and gave opportunities to practice lessons such as: “Be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice”; discrimination between right and wrong; detachment; the importance of staying alert and putting in effort; and the importance of love and compassion.

Now that I am dealing with major health problems, I can see ways that I have been prepared for that experience by Spirit , the Universe, God, Guru, or whatever we call our higher power.

Most of these occurrences happened before I knew that there was anything wrong in my body. But each has been invaluable since I have known.

Some examples that I am aware of:

In the mid 1980s, a friend of mine took a workshop with Virginia Satir that lasted a month. I wanted to do that too. But I had young children and a job so I rationalized that I couldn’t do it then, I would do it later. She died before I took the training. Having lost that opportunity, I reacted very differently when I met Amma.

I met Amma in June 1989. That weekend I spent a day at her Orcas Island retreat, six weeks later I was at her East Coast retreat and six months later I was with her in India. I continued spending time with her each summer on the US tour and each winter in India for the next 30+ years. I had learned an important lesson from my Virginia Satir experience. I no longer put off doing what was important to me.

In 1997, I was on a plane headed for India when it had a decompression problem and dropped 25,000 feet in about a minute. Amma was aware of our plight at the time that it happened. Part of me believes that I was meant to die that day and that every day I have been alive since then has been a gift. So if I died tomorrow, I still would have lived a full life

In the early 2000’s, I had another experience that impacted my life. I read what I think was the last book that somebody I respected wrote before her death. She was asked if she still thought God was a loving God. She responded “No”. I thought she sounded very bitter and had the distinct impression that it was due to her not accepting help when it was offered. I vowed that I would learn to accept help so that when I needed it, I could let go and gratefully accept what was being offered rather than push it away saying “I can do that for myself.”

Now that I am having physical problems, I am receiving lots of opportunities for doing that and experiencing the benefits of following through. I really appreciate all the help I am getting.

In 1973, I broke my right wrist just before I started graduate school. In 2017 or 2018, I broke it again. Again, I had to learn how to do many things with my non-dominant hand. I don’t remember much about the earlier experience, but in the more recent one I remember having considerable difficulty figuring out how to put on a bra and fasten it.

Because that incident happened then, when my left arm and hand became weak with my current illness, I knew how to put on a bra. That may seem to be a minor thing, but it meant a lot to me.

In 2018 or 19, I started noticing a man in my Seattle neighborhood who I believed had had a stroke. I did not know him but I watched as he walked for long periods every day without fail. He even walked up and down big hills seemingly unafraid. I was so impressed. He was an inspiration to me and gave me hope when I started having trouble walking.

Because of my years as a psychotherapist and a nurse I am prepared to speak up and advocate for myself when I think that’s in order.

I have many friends, colleagues and family members who have dealt with cancer or serious chronic illnesses. All of them have modeled courage in the face of adversity. I hope I can be like them.

When I came back from my last trip to India in January 2020, I had an intuition that I would not be going back to India the next year as had been my practice. In fact, I wasn’t sure I would ever be going back. By then I knew I had a physical problem, but I didn’t know about Covid. I didn’t realize essentially the whole world would be on lockdown and I wouldn’t be the only one not going where they wanted to go.

A recent example of the value of staying alert and of the answers to problems being nearby occurred when I decided to put together another issue of the Pacific Northwest GreenFriends newsletter. I completed it but it was much too hard for me to do, I needed to put this in my past.

Then it occurred to me, that I had gotten direction for the next step in two emails that came while I was doing that project. Both emails said something like “Why is this newsletter still a PDF, why is it not a blog or a website?”

I realized that in the 11 years I had been organizing our newsletter, GreenFriends- North America had started a website and a newsletter. Our newsletter could end and I could encourage our writers and photographers to contribute to that publication. I got support for that plan from the appropriate people and then announced it.

So in summary, remember that if you stay alert that you will be more likely to find the answers to problems nearby. And you might also discover ways in which you have received preparation for some of the problems that you have faced in life.

There is value in keeping your eyes open and making these observations. Perhaps the greatest value is feeling you are not doing this life journey alone. There is help all around you.

Sadhana: Chanting the Meal Prayer

I am resistant to doing spiritual practices (sadhana) other than bhajans (singing) and since sound is bothering my nervous system I can’t even do that.

I decided four or five months ago that I would start praying before meals. That is a practice that I am very lazy about doing. And I would like to change that. I made a new rule- if any food touched my mouth before I chanted the meal prayer, I had to do the chant three times instead of once.

Amma has us chant Bhagavad Gita 4:24 as the meal prayer:

Sanskrit Prayer: 
brahmaarpanam brahma havir brahmaagnau brahmanaa hutam brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahmaa karma samaadhina
Translation: 
Om, the ladle is Brahman. The offering is Brahman.It is offered into the fire of Brahman by Brahman. Brahman alone is to be reached by him who sees Brahman in each and every action

I started that practice sometime before my daughter arrived from india. When she got here, she decided to join me in the endeavor. At that point, she would remind me to pray, since she didn’t want to chant it three times.

After some time, she realized that we frequently weren’t eating at the same time. She changed her mind about participating at all. At that point, she also quit reminding me.

As time went by, I found myself often chanting it 9 times at night! I obviously haven’t integrated this practice yet. At least this week, there have been several times I have remembered to chant the prayer at mealtime… before I ate. Today, I had visitors during lunch so I had them pray with me even though they weren’t eating!

Nessun Dorma

A friend sent me an America’s Got Talent YouTube video last week. It was from a year ago, so I may or may not have seen it before. Regardless, when I watched it I started crying. The child’s singing touched my heart as so often happens when I watch that show. I hope you enjoy it too.

Amma Quotes

Amma is an internationally known humanitarian and spiritual leader. I met her in June of 1989 and have spent time with her every year since then. From time to time, I share Amma quotes on my blog. This is one of those times.

In real prayer there is nothing to ask, nothing to demand, no suggestions. Real prayer is sincere surrender.

When going to bed recollect the day’s activities and try to discriminate between the good and bad.

Never be depressed seeing the obstacles on your path. You have the lamp of faith with you. Light it.

The attitude “I will only accept success” is wrong. Learn to also accept the responsibility of defeat.

If we look at the world with eyes of wisdom and give solace to the suffering through compassionate hands, we will surely reach the shore of peace and bliss.

Amma Quotes

Amma is an internationally known humanitarian and spiritual leader. I met her in June of 1989 and have spent time with her every year since then. (I was going to add except in 2020 but then I remembered I was with her in India in January 2020!) From time to time, I share Amma quotes on my blog. This is one of those times.

Traveling by bus, we see many things on the way and just let them pass by. Watch the thoughts of your minds in the same way.

Never forget God. Never forget your real Source. Never move away from the real center within you.

In times of tragedies, our duty is to lend a helping hand to those in grief and thus light lamps of kindness and compassion.

Grace is the factor that brings the right result to your actions, at the right time and in the right proportion.

Lessen the quantity of unnecessary thoughts and allow more space for the energy of love to flow within you.

Photo Source: Amma’s Facebook Page

Only Love

When I was looking for something else on YouTube a few minutes ago, it occurred to me that a group video which had been made as a gift for Amma might be on it. And it was! The video was posted in August of 2020. Ten thousand participants from 360 cities and 39 countries were involved in making it.

Just What I Needed

I haven’t watched any of the new season of America’s Got Talent or Britain’s Got Talent. Then earlier today, a friend sent me a link for a video that shows three of the performances of the person who recently won Britain’s Got Talent. Within a few minutes of starting to watch it, tears were pouring from my eyes. Tears of appreciation, tears that come when my heart is touched. As I was putting together this post, I watched it again. More tears. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Amma Quotes

I’ve seen quite a few Amma quotes recently that I have wanted to share. I decided I would put them all in one post!

Having the freedom to decide how to act, we should exercise the faculty of discrimination to choose the right actions and attitude.

Pray: Let the music of peace and harmony be heard everywhere.

It is pure love and selfless service that sustains this universe.  

We must cultivate a spiritual culture that respects and worships the sanctity of all beings.

Patience, constant enthusiasm and firm determination are necessary factors for success.