My vacation stopped feeling like a vacation and has felt more like a holding pattern for at least the last week. My spiritual practice has suffered tremendously. As it goes, so do I. While I recognize in myself the fruits of my previous efforts -I am slower to anger, more compassionate, and more patient with the unexpected and the waiting – I am far more in thrall to my whims and moods. Oh what an inconsistent creature I am! I rise and fall according to the chemical dance of my blood sugar, I sway with the soundness of sleep from the night before.
I remember to observe Mondays and Fridays in honor of Shiva and Kali. I wear white, I abstain from alcohol. I remember to chant ever so briefly. But I am failing at avoiding social media. I still read a few sections from the Living Siva e-book. I have started the Bhagavad Gita. The lack of personal space and scheduling forces me to offer up my lack of devotions as a devotion itself.
This blog has surely suffered for this interruption. I try not to beat myself up but instead take this all as information. I notice my reactions to the inert food, to my lack of sleep, to the heat, etc and try and use that noticing as a meditation. But it’s hard and all I feel like doing is whining. This isn’t how I wanted to wind up my time with Hinduism. But it is what it is, and I let go of results of my efforts.
Tomorrow I get five days of actual vacation: we head up to the San Francisco Bay Area to see friends and Do Things. I hope this rejuvenates my spirit, even though I know my soul is perfect as it always has been and always will be, I still hope the other parts of me can perk up and catch on.
“On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.” The Bhagavad Gita 2:40
My time with Hinduism is winding down. I feel a variety of emotions as I think of the quarters to come. Sad: Hinduism is so beautiful, so rich, and so surprisingly fulfilling that I am loath to move on. Grateful: I’ve learned so much. I feel joyfully changed from my experience so far. I feel like I am a better person, a more complete me. Excited: Feri is next and I look forward to getting back to that. Plus, there are many similarities between tantra and Feri. I had no idea. It’s an exciting discovery and I think exploring those intersections will be rich – and scary! But scary in the good way. Dread: Christianity is one section closer.
Which leads to me think that I may change-up the plan for this blog. As I listen to my heart and take seriously what I’ve learned, I do not believe that I can practice as a Christian in any sincere capacity. I have a love of that tradition, particularly the Eastern Orthodox tradition. But every time I think about attending church, reading the bible, and just flat-out trying to think and act like a Christian, I get knots in my gut. I am not a Christian and I do not want to be one. To attempt to practice as one would be spiritual tourism and disrespectful to sincere believers and the tradition itself.
Writing publicly about one’s spiritual practices and experiences has its own host of problems and challenges. One pitfall I want to avoid is spiritual tourism. I am not practicing these traditions out of a desire to pick and choose what I like, as if I am shopping the world’s religions to find a great African-inspired belt to go with my sari, platform boots, and push-up bra. That’s just a recipe for a hot mess. I am genuinely exploring these traditions to find out how I might practice them, in my life as a woman, mother, student, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and white American.
I give thanks to Christianity and Christian culture for teaching me so much. I am grateful for my theological studies – I am a better thinker and a smarter human for having read the thoughts of great Christian thinkers. But I feel it is right to let it go for good. For now I will continue on with Feri as planned and listen for what is appropriate and necessary come late December.
I feel I have very little of interest to share these days. Being out of my own routine and climate of comfort is taking its toll on me. I’m reading and praying in small bursts, and thinking a lot. Mostly, I’m trying to accept where I’m at and be still in the moment. Until I have something of depth to share, I offer these links for your consideration:
One of the blogs that inspired my exploration and the structure of this blog is Project Conversion. Andrew started with Hinduism and you can read his month of posts on the faith as he experienced it and practiced it. There are interviews, essays on the practice, history and social issues, as well as his overall conclusions. I realize that I missed many of the posts and I will be going back to read them all again. Start here.
Aseem Shukla writes for the Washington Post’s On Faith series. He recently posted about Hinduism and its take on evolution. He covers a lot of interesting topics.
Shabda Brahman is a beautiful, personal and scholarly blog that I look forward to following. This particular post on Kalighat was especially beautiful to me.
Ganesh, the Remover of All Obstacles
Today starts Ganesh Chaturthi, a ten-day festival celebrating Ganesh, the Elephant Headed God. It’s a birthday of sorts! The custom is to make your own murti (statue) of Ganesh and honor it for the length of the festival, then take it to a body of water and let it dissolve there. I am not crafty in the slightest, and I’m not at home, so I have not made my own Ganesh. My hope is to get to the temple in San Diego in the next ten days and offer up some love to Ganesha there.
Ganesh is one of the most beloved of all Hindu gods. My three-year old loves him and can recognize him easily. And what’s not to love? Ganesh helps to remove the obstacles in our life, grants us sweetness and wealth, and is jollity personified. The big round belly is a further signifier that he enjoys the world. While, I think the root goal is for Ganesh to help us overcome the obstacles to our liberation, unless one is a monk with vows of renunciation, Hindus do not need to eschew the world; there is no ‘earthly life is bad, spirituality is the only good’ way of thinking. We are blessed to have bodies. The world itself is divine. We can get caught up in that, creating another obstacle to liberation, but enjoying the world in and of itself is not a bad thing. Thinking of this makes me happy, especially as I am staying in a part of the world where I see a ‘Not of this world‘ bumper sticker at least once a day. Don’t get me started on the irony of those stickers.
In my house both my husband and I have small statues of Ganesh on our altars. We place offering of coins there regularly. When it starts to overflow we move them to a jar and when the jar is full we give it to the first charity that knocks on our door. It is an act of gratitude for all that we have been blessed with, and an acknowledgment that Ganesh has been helping us. Traditionally, every undertaking and every puja begins with a prayer to Ganesh – before even praying to one’s main god/dess! I still struggle with ideas of ‘personal relationship’ with the deities. I think this comes from years immersed in Christian culture. I certainly wouldn’t say that I have a personal, intimate relationship with Ganesh, but he is definitely a member of the household.
Instead of concluding with a traditional chant, I’ll leave you with this song from MC Yogi. It’s only half the song, but it’s fun and catchy, and the video is a bunch of pretty images of Ganesh. MC Yogi’s blog also has some great pictures of graffiti and other forms of urban art with Hindu themes. Jai Ganesha om!