I just watched another good news story. Incredible. Inspiring.
I dealt with numerous challenges yesterday… and this morning. Today, those challenges have been resolving one after another.
just after 8 a.m., I looked out of my dining room window and saw sunlight streaming through the trees. At the same time this was happening, it was raining. The sunlight made the raindrops sparkle. My photo doesn’t do this experience justice, but I hope, along with my words, it gives you a sense of the beauty I witnessed.
Then I got into my car so I could drive to the bakery to pick up the pumpkin pies I’m taking to a Thanksgiving dinner later in the day. As I drove out of the driveway, the first thing I saw was a beautiful rainbow. I parked the car so that I could take another photograph. The rainbow was already beginning to fade when I snapped the picture, but I think the photo offers a glimpse of its beauty. Fifteen seconds later, the rainbow was gone.
I feel grateful and blessed.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
I created this blog in March 2014. My son (The Seeker’s Dungeon) had been urging me to start a blog for some time. My answer was always “maybe some day”. Then one day, almost out of the blue, I decided to do it. My main motivations were that I wanted to be able to post responses to his Dungeon Prompts Challenges and I wanted to surprise him. He definitely was surprised when he received my first submission. Neither of us had any idea how much the blog would become a part of my life. I love blogging.
Last night, I reached a major milestone. While I slept, the number of pages that have been viewed on my blog passed:
Never would I have dreamed I would reach that mark. Many thank to each of you who have taken the time to read my posts and to contribute to my life in this way.
My neighbor John and I had plans to pull ivy, blackberries and other weeds in the Greenbelt for a couple hours today. Problem was, the weather forecast was for rain, and neither of us were interested in working in the rain.
We planned to start weeding at 11:30. When it began to rain at 11:00, I felt doubtful that we would be able to work. At 11:30, the rain stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The sun came out and we got busy. Before long it was so warm that I took off my coat. The weather change was remarkable.
After two hours, we decided we had done enough for that session. As soon as John left, I noticed that it was getting dark. It seemed like dusk, even though it was only 2:45 in the afternoon. By the time I finished picking up my tools and putting the weeds I had pulled on the racks to dry, it started to rain.
I felt as if Mother Nature had blessed us twice- when we were given sun and warmth while we worked and when the rain started as soon as we finished, showering the plants we love with much needed water.
Thank you Mother for taking care of all of your children, whether they be insects, animals, plants or people.
Friday morning, when I was pulling weeds in the Greenbelt, I noticed that there was a coin on the ground next to a sign I had placed under an Indian plum shrub during the spring of 2017.
I was curious what it was, so I picked it up. These messages were on the two sides of the coin:
Over the year, a few people have told me that they appreciated the signs but I have no idea who put the coin there or when they did it. I felt very grateful for the expression of gratitude and will definitely pass the coin on!
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may remember that I am a big fan of Nimo Patel from Empty Hands Music. Nimo has recently offered another music video to the world. This one is called Beautiful. The email message from Empty Hands Music introducing the new video stated:
We have officially released our latest music video called “Beautiful“, a song and video sharing a message of letting go of our technology once in a while, to see the beauty that is constantly surrounding us. If you enjoy it, do share with your friends and family.
The introduction on the YouTube page gave even more information:
Ellie Walton and Nimo release another Empty Hands Music Video, this time featuring Nimo in collaboration with soul singer Jason Joseph. The message of the song is simple: that beauty exists every where we go. We just have to open our hearts and eyes, to actually see it moment to moment.
You can download the album that contains these songs and more- for free- at the Empty Hands site but I decided to put the links to some of my previous Nimo posts below. The first one includes introductory information as well as one of the songs he sang when I first heard him sing.
Every year at this time, Nimo Patel shares his Empty Hands Music video Grateful. This year he included this message with it:
Grateful for the many blessings that are always surrounding us. When our cup of gratitude overflows, we are inspired to want to give more to others: thanks + giving. May we all continue to be grateful and giving, and have a blessed and safe holiday season!
In that spirit, I am passing his message and video on to you.
I am truly blessed.
Grace is Flowing
I have felt graced many times lately. The ones I’m remembering in the moment are:
-I wear a Fitbit that serves both as a pedometer and as a watch. For some unknown reason, the Fitbit hasn’t synced for the last six weeks, so I’ve had to add 1 ½ hours every time I looked at the watch. That has been a nuisance. One day this week, I looked at my watch and the time was correct. It felt surreal.
-Last week I made an appointment for a massage. (Various forms of body work and classes are available here. The proceeds help fund Amma’s humanitarian projects.) When I arrived at the session, the massage therapist asked if I wanted a Swedish massage or Reflexology. I said “Both!” That wasn’t an option so I got the massage.
When I was in Tai Chi class on Thursday, I started feeling the nerve pain I get in my toes when my low back muscles are too tight. Towards the end of the class, a friend who was on a break from the Reflexology class she was teaching, walked up to me and asked if I wanted to have a Reflexology treatment in a half hour. She had an uneven number of people in her class, and needed to have someone receive a treatment when the students paired up and worked on each other. I, of course, was delighted to serve in that way!
-Amma held darshan in the temple again on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. That felt like such a gift. Being in the temple brings back so many memories for me plus it feels more intimate than being in the big auditorium.
-I’d been feeling down for awhile and hadn’t been able to shake it. On Wednesday, the crowd was small so I decided to go for darshan and ask Amma, internally, to help me lighten up. When I entered the darshan line, I learned that the man next to me was from the UK but had been living in a Buddhist monastery for many years. He was on his way back to the UK, where he plans to start an intentional living community focused on mindfulness and sustainability. He had never met Amma before. I loved talking to him while we proceeded through the darshan line. When I reached Amma, she held me for what seemed like a very long time. I feel so blessed to have her in my life.
-Someone asked me a few days ago if I would be willing to be the first person to hand Amma prasad this coming Sunday. They always like to have an experienced person do that job at the beginning. Needless to say, I didn’t have to think twice before I said yes to that!
– Amma comes to the beach for meditation and a question and answer period on Monday and Friday evenings. I didn’t go on Monday, but I heard afterwards that instead of being next to the Ayurvedic building, sandbags had been put on the beach and the meditation was held there. I felt sad that I had missed that experience so I made sure I went yesterday. It was wonderful to be there although I was sitting on the side and much lower than most of the people so I could see Amma but not much else. I had no idea what a big area our group covered until I saw this photo on Amma’s Facebook Page. I will go earlier on Monday!
-Tonight Swami Amritasvarupananda sang a song that used to take me into such a deep state of meditation. I haven’t had that experience for many, many years, but it happened again tonight. I am feeling so much gratitude.
Saraswati Garden and Eco Textile Work Center
I’ve continued to work an hour or two in the Saraswati Garden and Work Center most days. On Wednesday, we harvested the rest of the turmeric. Yesterday it was boiled and today another devotee and I sliced it. It will then be dried and ground into powder for use in dying fabric. After two hours of slicing, my hands were even yellower than when I did it for the first time. I know from experience that I will be yellow for days.
I’ve seen big lizards in the garden several times on this trip, but they always move so fast that a photo is out of the question. Two days ago, one scooted in front of me and then up the side of a wall. It then stayed in one place while I took out my camera. As soon as I snapped the shot, it sped off.
The garden has lots of caterpillars. I turned over a coconut shell yesterday and it was filled with caterpillars. I walked back to the house to get mye camera. There were still a lot of them in the shell when I returned. I associate caterpillars with destroying gardens and trees but I don’t see any evidence that these are hurting the plants in any way. I wonder what they are eating.
A week from today I will be in Dubai waiting for my flight back to Seattle. I’m starting to sort through my belongings and pack. Before long I will be cleaning my room in preparation for the next person that stays here.
Even though I’m starting my ending process, I know my trip is not over yet. I have almost a week of experiences still ahead of me. On Monday, I’m going to Vrindavan Gardens, the oldest of the tulasi gardens. I’ve heard new things are happening there and I’m eager to find out what they are!
To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.
On the morning of December 15, I started to think of what I would include in my next Living and Learning in Amritapuri post. Little did I know that day would provide enough material for a full blog post.
When I returned from my morning Tai Chi class, I was surprised to discover that Amma was holding the public darshan program in the temple instead of the big auditorium. It had been years since she has done that in December since the crowds tend to be so big during the holiday season.
I went about my day, going to lunch, watching a bit of the play practice and then working for a while in the garden. When I came back to the main part of the ashram, I decided to go into the temple and join the prasad-giving line. [Note: The prasad-giver hands Amma the sacred ash and candy that she gives to each person who comes to her for a hug.]
When I entered the temple, many memories came into my mind. My first trip to Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri was in January 1990. I arrived at the ashram days after the temple had opened. The top floor was not even built yet. When I sat in the temple during those first days, I often wondered why Amma had built a temple that big. In those days, almost everyone was able to sit in the first third of the room.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that Amma had much better foresight than I did. The number people coming for her darshan (hug) grew rapidly.
In those days, there weren’t flats to live in; almost everyone stayed in rooms in the temple, or in huts outside. If there weren’t enough rooms available, visitors slept in any open space. I remember having trouble getting in or out of my room because sleeping people blocked the entrance.
A few years later, when Amma held a public program, the crowd looked like the one in the photo below. I remember at the time I purchased this photo, I considered the temple to be filled to capacity. When I look at it now, it seems like there is lots of empty space. I think there were times when nearly twice as many people crowded into the temple.
Eventually, it was necessary to build the huge auditorium that is now used for almost all of the ashram programs.
As I went through the prasad-giving line, I reflected on memories of sitting near Amma in the temple during that first visit. In particular, I remembered a time when I went into a deep meditative state and didn’t come out of it for two hours. Going that deep is so different from my current experience with meditation.
Finally, I made it through to the front of the prasad line and started handing prasad to Amma. It was truly an experience of “Home.” My eyes filled with tears. I felt so blessed.
After I finished my two to three minute prasad giving shift, I walked from the inner temple where the darshan takes place to the main floor. I sat close to the front so I could get glimpses of Amma as she hugged the devotees.
Because of the back problems I have had this year, I have generally been unable to sit on the ground unless I was in a meditation chair. To be able to sit cross-legged on a tile floor for more than half an hour without having any problems was wonderful.
When I left that area, I decided to go to my room. As I walked by the darshan line, I saw that many residents and long term devotees were in the line. Generally, I go for darshan only when I arrive at the ashram and just before I leave, so I hadn’t planned on having darshan that day.
As I walked down the temple stairs, I realized it would mean so much to me to once again be held by Amma in the temple. When I reached the last stair, I stopped and reflected on the situation. Since I felt in a place of “want” instead of “need”, it didn’t seem right to go, but every time I took a step towards my flat, I changed my mind and went back to the first temple step and continued my reflection. In time, it occurred to me that I have missed many opportunities because of some standard I judged I should be following.
I had noticed the darshan token table was still open so I decided I would ask them if Amma had called for everyone to come for darshan that day. The person who was handing out tokens immediately said “Yes” and followed it with “So that means you.” He handed me a token and said “Go!” I was so happy.
When I returned to the temple, I saw that the darshan line was much longer than I had thought it was. I took a seat at the end of the line.
I had another unexpected treat in store for me. In my memory, since we started using the auditorium for bhajans, whenever Amma decided to give darshan in the temple, one or more of the senior swamis would still lead the evening bhajan program in the auditorium. I was so surprised when Swami Amritasvarupananda started singing in the temple. I was definitely transported back in time.
It took at least two hours to get to Amma, but it was well worth it. Soon, I was in her arms in the temple, just like I was 27 years ago, and for many years after that. I felt so grateful. Thank you Amma for seeing me, for loving me, and for all you have given me year after year.
It was a perfect ending to an amazing day.
To look at all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.