Beauty, Balance, and Awareness
Welcome to Spring, the season of vibrancy, movement, and new beginnings. As we make our way out of the inertia of Winter we are met with the energy of Spring and the element of air, Vata. Vata is all about movement and refreshing, about removing stagnation, and about creativity and wild abundance. This season is exciting and filled with promise, it is a feast for the senses and the world seems to awaken and burst into activity. There is no doubt about it Vata season is delicious and beautiful, however, Vata season is also windy, breezy, turbulent, prone to sudden blusters, and unpredictable. Spring can be fickle and turn on a dime.
So how do we stay centered, balanced, and equanimous during this wild season?
I love the Vedic myth of Indra and Durvasa meeting one day on a dusty road a long, long time ago to help us discover how we can cultivate beauty and balance through awareness and spiritual practice.
The story goes...
Indra, a powerful god of the heavens, who is associated with the sky, wind, thunder, and lightning, was traveling by his elephant on a quiet road through his kingdom. He was quite pleased with the beauty, abundance, lush landscape, and joyful people he encountered on his passage. The sky was blue, and the fragrance of fruit and blossoms hung in the air, it was, in Indra's mind, a lovely day as usual. That is until just up ahead on the road he saw Durvasa. Durvasa was a wise and powerful sage and was highly revered for his powers, but he had a quick temper and was prone to casting curses when angered. Indra wanted to avoid Durvasa but had no choice but to pass by him.
Durvasa excitedly approached Indra wanting to share that he had had a fantastic dream that spoke of beauty and opulence, prosperity and abundance, and was called to create a beautiful garland of flowers for him, it was, according to Durvasa, a blessing, and a boon. He was filled with enthusiasm and offered the garland to Indra. Indra lost in his own thoughts and not really giving his attention to Durvasa mumbled his thanks and took the garland without a pause and he and his elephant continued on. Well, that didn't really sit well with Durvasa, and he watched, horrified, as Indra tossed the garland onto his elephant's tusk, the elephant, becoming irritated, shook the garland free sending it to the ground and trampled it into the dirt with its huge round feet.
Can you see where this is going?
Durvasa became enraged and began fuming over the insult. He, in all of his power, cursed Indra's kingdom. He ordered the goddess Lakshmi to be banned from Indra's kingdom, sending her to the Milky Ocean. Indra immediately knew his mistake as everything around him began to wither and die. Lakshmi is the goddess of abundance, beauty, and prosperity and without her, the sky began to dull, and the fragrant blooms and juicy fruits fell to the ground as they turned rotten and brown. The moon itself, so terribly sad, could not muster the energy to show itself in the night sky and lovers no longer walked under the light of its beams.
There was no love or joy. Laughter could no longer be heard and the people lost all vivacity. As time passed it only worsened and they implored Indra to intervene and bring back Lakshmi. There was plenty of conversation between all the gods as to exactly how that would be done.
After a lot of consideration a plan was hatched by Vishnu to churn the Milky Ocean, (we can think of the Milky Ocean as a code word for consciousness) and bring back Lakshmi.
He quickly organized all beings, asking the Asuras (malevolent) and Devas (benevolent) to come to his aid and turning himself into a large sea turtle began to raise a mountain out of the Ocean. He then called upon a huge serpent to be used as a rope and wrapped the serpent around the mountaintop with the Asuras on the mouth end and the Devas on the tail end and they began churning this large mountain in the middle of the Milky Ocean.
As in most Vedic myths time is measured in years, and many years passed with this wild churning of the Milky Ocean. As they churned gifts began to emerge from the Ocean, knowledge, music, art, creativity, and more. So they vigorously continued their churning when, at last, Lakshmi, perched on a beautiful lotus flower began to emerge, she rose from the milky waters, dressed in a luminescent sari, wearing jewels and gold, she carried an empty jar symbolizing never-ending givingness, two lotus flowers symbolizing divine wisdom, and from her fourth hand, she spilled golden coins, a reminder of the constant stream of abundance.
As she returned from the Ocean she radiated beauty, abundance, and prosperity. The whole kingdom began to soak in her radiance. Rivers that had dried up now ran wild and fast, fields that had lost their crops were lush and green once again, the fragrance of jasmine filled the air, and people laughed, loved, and walked under the light of the moon.
All was well in the kingdom, beauty and balance were sweetly restored.
Let's unpack some of the details of the story that we can recognize ourselves in. As mentioned the 'Milky Ocean' is code for consciousness, so there is a recognition that everything arises from consciousness and returns to consciousness. From a non-dualist perspective, we can see that we have a unified field of consciousness, we may appear separate, but ultimately there is only One. Durvasa, while not a god, has powers that he has cultivated from years of Spiritual Practice, and with those powers, he has the free will to use them for good or in this case to curse humanity. The Law of Cause and Effect is at work here, thoughts become things, it starts in the mind and expresses in our experience, and we can direct our thoughts in any direction we choose. Unfortunately, Durvasa, with his quick temper, chose to oppose good and opt for revenge instead. How many times have we found ourselves looking at a smashed garland and had to make a choice? If only Durvasa could have taken a breath, just taken a pause, before his thinking went sideways. We can also see ourselves in Indra, a little self-obsessed, moving through life on our elephant when on the road ahead we see that little distraction, a glitch in our otherwise perfect day. Indra had forgotten to receive. He forgot to acknowledge a beautiful gift, it slipped from his fingers to the elephant's tusk, and he dismissed it. Here we are on the road of life, meandering through, life has shown up, filled with enthusiasm, and brought wondrous gifts, but in our indifference, preoccupations, or pre-conceived importance of routine, we just kept moving. In that instant where we deny a gift, there is an effect, we make a choice, and choices matter.
What I love most about this story is the resurrection of Lakshmi from the Milky Ocean. When all seems lost, when the world looks unbalanced, and things shift from shiny to dull we can dive deep into the ocean of our consciousness through meditation, mantra, prayer, and contemplation. These Spiritual Practices 'churn' the mind and begin to free up 'gifts' as new thoughts, ideas, inspirations, wisdom, clarity, and ways of seeing things differently. What we desire is in constant supply and needs our attention and steady acknowledgment.
In this wild and blustery season, it can be easy to get caught up in the movement and energy of Vata, becoming less grounded, unfocused, and a bit scattered. Taking time each day to ground both the body and mind and to lean into the habit of gracious receiving will help bring balance and beauty back into being.
Sitting quietly with your eyes closed, recall a time when life brought you a gift, it was unexpected and came in with unexpected enthusiasm, were you a gracious receiver? Were you dismissive? Looking back what was the outcome of your reception?
Lakshmi like the Vata season can be fickle and she requires attention to detail, preparation, and a welcoming invitation. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and appreciate the beauty and balance already present around you. Take note of your personal space and ask yourself if it is tidy and organized, if it is fresh and clean, and if there are objects of beauty like art, plants, or flowers that are well taken care of in your space. Imagine inviting Lakshmi to your home, how would you prepare? Churn your consciousness and invite beauty, abundance, prosperity, and creativity to be with you. How would that feel? Are you available to receive more of what you desire? What comes up for you?
And lastly, an exercise to awaken your senses. Sitting quietly and breathing naturally. Take ten breaths, and gradually increase the duration of the inhale and exhale. Take your awareness to the center of the brow. Imagine a juicy orange, perfectly ripe in the mind's eye. Notice the vibrant orange color, look at the texture of the orange, and take as much time as you like. As you breathe imagine the smell of the orange, notice the smell of the orange as you imagine peeling the orange, it peels easily and effortlessly. Notice the texture, the feel, and the heaviness of the peeled orange, hold the image of the peeled orange in the mind's eye. Separate the sections of the orange, as you pull them apart you can almost taste the orange, allowing the taste, the smell, and the feel of the orange to fill your consciousness. Take a few more breaths and gently open your eyes. How did you do? Could you receive the orange with all of its good in your awareness? Was there a part of you that was dismissive and wanted to return to your habitual pattern of thinking, and if so were you able to direct your awareness back to the orange? When was the last time you stopped your elephant and graciously and with full awareness received an unexpected gift?
Om Shri Mahalakshmiyai Namaha and Spring blessings! Kate
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