Be careful what you pray for….

Because you just might get it.

I’ve been quiet. There’s been a lot going on in my house since Adam’s grandmother died two weeks ago. As soon as he returned from the funeral, my in-laws arrived and then it was Thanksgiving. Then my daughter came down with a double infection and a bronchial thingamajig. Oh yeah, and I’ve been not so successfully fighting the cold and…..

And dealing with so much stuff that I cannot talk about publicly. On top of some wonderful opportunities that I look forward to sharing with you next week, I am dealing with some very deep relationship issues. Which leads me to the title of this post.

Yesterday I was overwhelmed with intense feelings. I felt like a deer in headlights, paralyzed, unable to see if the bright lights were safe or potentially fatal. I walked myself into my office (altar room) and sat in meditation for a while. The moment I walked into the room I was smacked upside the head with the realization that every single day I pray to Mahakali to slay the fears that limit my spirit. If I’m not prepared to face my fears – my deepest insecurities, to dig deep, to expose my heart – then what the hell am I doing praying that prayer?

Kali Ma

Kali Ma

And I realized I had only last month prayed and venerated Lakshmi, goddess of abundance, asking for all good things. If I am not prepared to make room for that abundance, then I am foolish indeed.

So I’m facing my fears. Mostly it feels like I’m flailing and talking too much to my loved ones. Mostly it feels like I’m vacillating between feeling strong and expansive, and shame that I’ve not got my shit figured out. I am clearing out the dead weeds in my patterns, past and heart, making room for new growth, new love, new patterns; more, better, stronger.

Celebrating Diwali

Diwali is like Christmas. It’s a festival of lights, a celebration of light over darkness, of ushering in the new, and giving gifts to loved ones.  There are many traditions, some vary according to community, but some of them are: new clothes for everyone, new jewelry for women, a new kitchen utensil for the house, closing up the year’s account book and starting a new one, leaving all the lights on, and creating colorful mandalas, decorations and footprints leading up to the front door to let Lakshmi know to visit.

As with all my observances of Hindu festivals I tried to take the meaning and adapt it to my abilities. My overwhelming experience with Hinduism has been that, despite my inaccuracies, my limited abilities to create ‘authentic’ puja, and my straight up ignorance of Sanskrit, whenever I practice, my efforts are repaid in full. There is juice and Presence in this tradition!

After cleaning the house yesterday, I decided that we too would make footprints to decorate the front porch for Lakshmi.

Me and B drawing

Feet! From top left, clockwise: Adam, Niki, B son, A daughter(with help from me and Bennett)

A outside. B also drew a picture of a robot. “Will Lakshmi like it?” he asked.

Ready to welcome abundance and Lakshmi to our house!

Diwali gifts: books for the kids, a new pair of wing earrings for me (already in my ears), and some sushi items for the house/Adam. You can see a candle burning at the family altar behind us.

After a delicious dinner, I uploaded grades while Adam put the kids to bed. Then I went and sat in meditation for a while, performing a simple puja.

The murtis are front and center. On the left are ramekins of honey, cumin and sweets (gummy bears, because the kids won’t eat them). In front of Lakshmi is a lotus plate with turmeric and coins. In the white pitcher is water with rice, a 50 cent piece, and a lily.

EDIT: After much discussion, Adam and I have decided to edit our kids’ names out of this post. I had originally put their names in, but we feel that since they cannot consent to our use of their names, lives, and likenesses that we are just going to use their initials (B and A) until they can understand what the internet means. I question even using their photos, but I use them so rarely and they’re so cute.

A blessed Diwali!

Diwali decorations are up. Candles are lit. Lights are on. Wine is poured. Gifts given. I’m wearing new earrings and I’m about to cook one of my husband’s favorite meals.

Tonight, after the kids are asleep, I’ll make puja to Lakshmi, honoring her for the abundance and beauty in my life, and asking for her blessings upon my life, my family, and all who dwell in this house.

Pictures (and more explanation) to come tomorrow.

May we all find light in the darkness, may liberation and enlightenment dispel the darkness of ignorance, and may we be blessed with the abundance of all good things.
Jai Ma!

Holidays and Hinduism

Diwali begins today. Well, in some communities. The major Lakshmi puja is observed the day after the dark moon, on Tuesday. What’s hard for me about observing Hindu holidays is that so many of the details depend on cultural traditions of the Indian subcontinent. Tamils observe slightly differently than Nepalese than the myriad other ethnic and cultural groups. The gods even have different names and sometimes slightly different mythology! While this is really confusing, it’s also liberating. There is no “right” way to observe anything in Hinduism!

I spend a lot of time trying to distill what I think the essence of an observance is all about. Diwali is a time of triumph of light over dark, of gratitude for friends and family, of honoring Lakshmi, who brings wealth, beauty, and abundance. It’s all very appropriate for this season – what with various end of harvest traditions, the approaching Thanksgiving holiday in the US in two weeks, and the various festivals of light in December.

Today begins the five-day observance. In some places it starts with honoring the gods of death and darkness. Yes, the light triumphs over the dark, but the dark is necessary, as any devotee of Kali knows! Today also lines up with Veterans’ Day/Remembrance Day. Tomorrow also the marks the astrological end of the Samhain season, so I think one more observance of the Dead is a fitting thing.

This morning I sat on my cushion, lit my incense, my meditation candle and the candle in my black glass votive for the Ancestors. I offered up words of praise and peace for the Mighty Dead, the Ancestors, and all those who have fallen in war – either as combatants, resisters, or civilian casualties. May their souls find peace. May those of us living find peace in our hearts, minds, souls, in our actions and our words. As the prayer of St Francis says, “Where there is hatred, let me sow peace.”

In an hour I’m heading to yoga. It’s been about two months since I’ve been. Today’s yogic focus is on Kali – how could I miss that?! I will offer up my practice on the mat to Kali, praying that any strength I gain will create more peace within me. I’ll carry that into tomorrow’s Diwali focus: freedom from fear.

Only by letting go of hatred, violence and fear is there room for true abundance.

Morning Practice

Every morning I escape from the family routine of breakfast, showers, dishes, getting dressed, stop hitting your sister, and escape into my back room to sit. I used to get up before the kids and do this, but my son typically is wide awake at 6.30 ready to snuggle and be read to. Getting up at 5.30 would be wise, but just isn’t going to happen, if I’m being honest.

Sitting in my bathrobe (sometimes I’m dressed first, not usually) I light the candles and the incense, waving it in front of Ganesh. Jai Ganesh. Then I wave it front of Kali. Jai Ma. This time of year I wave it over my ancestor altar and and hail the Mighty Dead and my Ancestors. I wave the incense around the entire altar and myself, bow and get to sitting meditation.

Meditation lasts all of five to ten minutes. I miss the days where meditation alone lasted half an hour or more. I sit and breathe, trying to empty my brain and get centered in my body. Mostly I sit around wondering if I’ve taken the meat out to thaw for lunch, and what was I making for lunch again? Shoot, I never responded to that email from mother. When was the last time I called my sister? Oh crap, the baby bonked her head and needs Mama. Will she stop crying or do I need to attend?

After I give up, I pull a tarot card. I’ve been working my way through Mary El’s beautiful tarot deck. I take each card as an inspiration and mediation for the day. Today’s was the 9 of Swords. According to her this is about pressure, the kind that clarifies and helps us return to our home state of glory.

Mary-El’s 9 of Swords

It’s an apt card for the day. Especially as I sit in a few in reflection for a few more minutes. Pressure. The kids are in the next room, laughing and playing and whacking each other. Our walls are very thin. It’s as if they are playing in my office. I sit in meditation with the pressures of family life all around me. Blog, clean, nurse, snuggle, listen, cook, walk, play, read, sit, reflect, love – there is time for it all in the day, but is there space enough? This is my daily pressure, my practice as a monk/householder.

Maxim Monday: Vote

I didn’t double-check, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a Delphic Maxim. Democracy comes from the Greeks, even if only the non-slave males were given the opportunity to vote. The Unites States doesn’t have a direct democracy, which really only functions best among thousands of people. But we do have democracy, and I’m a fan of it. I don’t use this blog for my political thoughts (although you can be certain I have many). Doing our civic duty is an ancient pagan value and so I’m using today’s post to encourage you to vote.

There are those in the US who would prefer if only land-holding, business-owning, morally upright, white folk could vote. Every time a person of color, a woman, someone in the LGBTQ community, a member of a religious minority votes, I consider that a radical act. Sure, many people among those groups are not radical, and plenty of people vote for the very forces that would oppress them. Still: exercise your constitutional right to vote.

The presidential election is a circus. I don’t consider the differences between Obama and Romney to be all that significant. If you don’t want to vote for either of those, may I suggest that you look to third parties for inspiration? The Green and Libertarian parties have worthy candidates, and I support the growth of third (and fourth and fifth) parties, in order to move away from the bipartisan domination of discourse in the US.

It’s not just the presidential election that matters, either. If you feel your vote doesn’t count at a national level (and there’s a strong argument for that), it most certainly does at the state and local levels. Vote for your representatives; see what’s pressing for your city or county.

I won’t suggest economic policy or national strategy to you, but I’d like to put in a plug for a couple of things, namely love and civil liberties. My hope is that every vote cast tomorrow is a vote for love, for the rights of families of all stripes, and for the protection of my freedoms as a female. I urge you to seek out candidates that will represent ALL of their citizenry: be they gay or straight, male or female, rich or poor, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Pagan, ‘Other,’ or atheist – and everything in between. It’s much harder to work for the benefit of all, but it’s the only way forward.

Go forth and vote! Vote for love!

The Not So Dumb Supper

I don’t know the much about history and tradition of the dumb supper. I’ve been to a few communal suppers and really enjoyed them. A few years ago I decided I’d like to add this to my own family’s traditions. Finding some balance to the commercialized candy-fest of mainstream Halloween and creating a container to discuss death and ancestors with the kids is important to me. This was our third dumb supper – and it certainly wasn’t all that dumb (and by dumb, I mean silent).

My ideal dumb supper is a beautiful meal, containing favorite foods of those we are honoring, laid upon a beautiful table/altar, with a place set for our ancestors, eaten in silence as we meditate on those that have passed and listen for their voices.

What typically happens is the children make a lot of noise, I realize too late that I don’t actually know what any of my ancestors liked to eat, and the dinner is chaos. Just like if we had guests.

Here is what our table looked like this year.

Dumb Supper 2012

From left to right, back: A picture of my friend Tim, who chose to leave this world five years ago, sitting on the Mendenhall Glacier; a picture of my maternal grandmother and namesake; a shot glass of water; some rocks from Alaska and Ireland; a black glass votive from my ancestor altar; a shot glass of wine; a green candle for more light; a picture of Victor and Cora Anderson, founders of the Feri tradition; various decorative gourds.

From left to right, front: A peacock feather; a Dia de los Muertos skull; a piece of peach pie for Cora on a china plate I inherited from my paternal grandmother; a cup of hot buttered tea for Victor in the same china.

Dinner did not go as planned this year. It’s been an emotionally stressful week and I was just not feeling my best. I was planning on making cottage pie with mashed sweet potatoes, but the potatoes never cooked (did I forget to turn on the oven? I still don’t understand what happened). I ended up serving the family a mish mash of various leftovers.

Once the altar was set and everyone dished up at the table, the baby was crying, desperate to eat and go to sleep. I turned off the lights and we said our Holy Mother prayer, invoked our ancestors and Mighty Dead, some by name, inviting them in. We sat, not in silence at all, and ate our meals. We began in chaos, and ended in chaos.

I left the candles burning and the table set with the altar all night long. In the morning my son wanted to eat the pie for breakfast, but Adam said his ‘magician’s eyes’ revealed to him that the pie was not meant to be eaten, that all the nutrition had been eaten up by Cora. My son wanted to know what kind of powerful god Cora was that she could eat pie.