While visiting Mauritius, we spent an afternoon at Grand Bassin. This is a sacred space for Hindus including its beautiful Crater Lake. It is most recognized for its the bigger-than-life statues at the entrance to Grand Bassin, as you can see the picture above. It is a place that is sacred but also deeply spiritual. A peace and calm pervades the setting.
Raj and Mira were our escorts and our guides for our visit there. They are Hindu and explained for us that Hinduism isn’t merely a collection of beliefs, rather it is a value system and a lifestyle. The shrines and statues in Grand Bassin depict the many aspects of God. There are many images or faces of God in Hinduism.
The Passover Seder meal and Easter Triduum ritual — are both celebrations of spring and the end of winter, at least in the northern hemisphere. But more than this, both holidays are also celebrations about moving away from what enslaves and diminishes us – into a new and transformed life.
We remember the stories, the history and the courage of a people who envisioned a better life, for themselves and for their communities. They trusted, they persevered and they were willing to sacrifice for empowerment and autonomy, even if it meant death. No small feat.
New life generally requires dying to the way things were. New life means experiencing a death of some kind, whether you are a slave in exodus from Egypt or a crucified criminal as Jesus was proclaimed to be. But the stories teach us that we can trust that there is more than we know. We can trust that God doesn’t want suffering for us. God will bring something wonderful out of the torment and suffering humans inflict on each other — something more beautiful than we can imagine.
We get hints of what transformation can be like. To see more transformations like this carved goose egg shown above, click here.
Lately, because of traveling and other commitments I haven’t been able to post very often. We’ve been enjoying outdoor concerts, grilling farmers’ market vegies and gathering with friends. However, in spite of and in the midst of everyday living our garden is doing surprisingly great. With all the rain we’ve had and some extra help from my friend L, my flower pots are having a banner year. She gave me a formula (“thrill, fill, spill”) for planting the pots and introduced me to some plants I’ve never used before. It was really a fun experience working with her and discovering new textures, sizes and plant colors. They provide amazing color, scent and beauty every day. Take a look – enjoy!
Even our Zen garden – with its herbs, scented flowers and native grasses is happy and content. Plus the wood is getting a nice weathered patina that I really enjoy.
This quote, also sent to me from my friend L, says something about what flowers and all things beautiful can bring to our lives;
26 Iyar 5773 | May 6, 2013, 41st Day of the Omer
Beauty takes us beyond the visible to the height of consciousness, past the ordinary to the mystical, away from the expedient to the endlessly true. Beauty sustains the human heart in the midst of pain and despair. Whatever the dullness of a world stupefied by the mediocre, in the end beauty is able, by penetrating our own souls, to penetrate the ugliness of a world awash in the cheap, the tawdry, the imitative, the excessive, and the cruel. To have seen a bit of the Beauty out of which beauty comes is a deeply spiritual experience. It shouts to us always, “More. There is yet more.”
Yesterday I saw this posted online, “For Lent I gave up . . . period. I just gave up” and I laughed out loud. Lest you think the poster was depressed and that I have a perverse sense of humor, she was quick to note that ending it all was not what she meant.
Part of the task of adulthood is being able to accept reality as it really is – in all its beauty and messiness. This means giving up other expectations – of changing other people, for one. Expecting the world to be different than it is, for another.
Instead we are called to surrender to reality as it really is and to what the universe is calling us to do, not what our family, culture or ego think we should do – or worse, what we wish other people would do.
Surrendering is a good practice for Lent. Just give up. Then observe carefully and see what reality is offering to you!
The new year is always a good time to clean, edit, organize. To that end I give you my “Spring Cleaning” post.
Last week I purchased some wonderful triple-milled French soap that was on sale. It makes the bathroom and shower smell great and it lasts twice as long as regular soap. On sale it is a good value and an affordable luxury.
This is the time of year when we may do some deep cleaning – both outside and within. The practice of saucha comes to mind. Traditionally, saucha is one of the niyamas or observances of the 8 Limbed Path of Yoga also known as Ashtanga Yoga. Saucha refers to the practice of cleanliness. Cleanliness of our bodies, our environment and our thoughts or mind.
The idea of the observance of saucha or cleanliness is not unique to Yoga. Ritual bathing and cleaning practices are prevalent in the Judaic (ritual bath, Kosher practice), Christian (baptism, foot washing) and Islamic (ritual washing and Hillel) religions. It is also readily found in many cultures including both Hindu and Japanese cultures or consider the Chinese practice of feng shui.
The practice of saucha keeps us healthy. Keeping our bodies and living spaces clean promotes health and releases life energy (prana) for healing, meditation and other activities. It is difficult to think clearly or accomplish something in a space that is cluttered, dirty or noisy.
Similarly, a lack of order that causes us to search for car keys every day steals time and energy. In our minds unwanted, intrusive thoughts or obsessions steal our time and mental energy. Practices of racism and discrimination distort our minds and defile our thinking. In our relationships, failure to maintain clear boundaries cause us to feel used, unappreciated or worse – violated. (To learn more, I strongly recommend reading Anne Katherine’s Where to Draw the Line and Boundaries.)
Saucha is the remedy for all these.
Saucha reminds me that the practice of cleanliness is a practice of maintaining physical health but also a spiritual practice. This is true whether it is making a bed, washing dishes or meditating to clear my mind. If I want to be a virtuous person I must become those virtues. This means that if I want to be kind I must practice kindness. If I want to be generous or honest I must practice both. This includes being with people who can embody what those virtues look like for me.
January and February are good months to clean house and maybe our lives. It’s constant work to remove relationships, food or activities that fail to leave my body, mind or life in better condition (eliminating junk food or TV – which is junk food for the mind – for example).
Keeping my surroundings ordered and clean promotes free-flowing energy. My home is not just for me. Everything I have is a gift. My resources must be well cared for and available for others too. This means extending myself with the practice of hospitality.
It is an ongoing challenge to seek out those with virtues I admire and spend time with them. Working with others to dismantle the legal and social structures of white privilege and racism is included here. Attitudes are slow to change which is why unjust laws must be corrected first.
This is what the practice of saucha looks like in my life. Why practice suacha? Remember the airline’s directive: “Place the oxygen mask over your mouth first before helping others.” I can’t be a healing presence for others in the world unless I am healthy myself.
Do you make time for spring cleaning or saucha in your life? What are your spring cleaning and saucha practices?