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The Nine Nights Of The Goddess – Navarātri

Yoga and tantra provide maps and paths through the maze of complex existence. They aim to transform the body-mind from raw, mundane states of existence to refined, exalted states of experience and realization.

Within many yogic and tantric traditions, certain seasons, months, and times of the day are given special importance.

They are ‘auspicious’ times when cosmic energies are heightened and, as such, support psycho-spiritual practice. These auspicious moments in time assist us in achieving positive results. For example, dawn and dusk are said to be ideal times for yoga and meditation.

The festival of Navarātri or Nine Nights (‘nav’ is nine and ‘rātri’ is nights) is one of the great ceremonies in the lives of Hindus in India. The exact time of this celebration varies according to the lunar calendar. It begins on a dark moon in the Indian autumn (in the month of Ashwin, usually in October) and ends ten days after. In 2020 Navaratri starts on the 17th of October (depending on which part of the world and time zone you live in).

This period of The Nine Nights is devoted to invoking The Great Mother Goddess, The Divine Creative Power, or Shakti, the creator and supporter of the universe. She is most closely identified with Durga, an exquisitely beautiful goddess who rides a lion, and who wields in her many hands’ awesome weapons, including the ‘shul’ (pike), ‘chakra’ (wheel), ‘parashu’ (ax), and ‘talvar’ (sword).

Durga is said to be the manifestation of the power of all the goddesses that, long ago, faced a terrible and irresistible demon called Mahishasura.

Mahishāsura is a mythic representation of the human ego in its demonic form

Many yogis do not see Navaratri as a religious process, but rather as a psycho-spiritual one, and a unique opportunity for yogic practice. 

They adopt certain practices and rituals to understand their psychological shadow and to confront their egos.

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Embodied Enlightenment

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Carl Jung

True enlightenment requires grounding and stability. Without these, we lose touch with our bodies, the material world, and the elements that make us successful humans.

The spiritual seeker often tries to detach from problems and people. He or she may resent the need to attend to practicalities and prefer to retire from the chaos of an ever-changing, ever-challenging world.

When obsession for enlightenment controls the personality, imbalance occurs.

The ego goes autonomous. The seeker loses touch with reality, which threatens their ability to survive, let alone create a good life.

What follows is a crisis – the sharp descent back to material existence, the thing the seeker most hoped to escape.

Now they must face the realities of life and the gorges of their abandoned darkness. The seeker needs to recognize that he or she cannot just live in the light all the time. They need to manage their darkness in order to find the light again. It is a hard road, but not an impossible one.

Eventually, there is the realization that authentic enlightenment comes from excavating the darkness.

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Why Mindfulness Is Not Enough

Mindfulness Is Not Enough
Many people come to us for therapy believing they cannot meditate. 

They have tried a few simple mindfulness and breath awareness techniques; however, they tell us they couldn’t meditate because they couldn’t stop thinking. They either feel bored looking at their thoughts, which they had hoped would stop, or they become nervous because they could not stop the anxious feelings, emotions, and memories that accompany these thoughts. 

It is a common misconception that you have to stop thinking to meditate. Rather the opposite is true. When you start off in meditation, the mind will be full of thoughts. This is a sign of success. The attainment of the thoughtless state, the state of Inner Silence, comes later on down the path.

The tragedy is, that because of this initial experience with pure mindfulness techniques, many people close the door on meditation and say that it is not for them. The real problem is that they have experienced only one technique, have not had access to theory, and are unaware that there are many other techniques that can give them a peaceful experience of meditation, even if they are thinking.

Mindfulness is one of the most popular forms of meditation. However, mindfulness, which is really the simple act of paying attention to the present moment and not being lost in thinking and rumination, is only a small part of meditation. It has gained popularity because it has been integrated into mental health programs where it is part of a larger approach to mental health. Mindfulness is not a standalone technique. It supports the clinical psychologists’ treatment of mental illness. 

For most people, and especially in a clinical setting, mindfulness needs to be combined with other techniques that enable you to reduce negative feelings attached to thoughts. You need to combine mindfulness with techniques that enable you to cultivate positive feelings so that you develop a positive sense of self-control. 

Much more is possible if you understand the theory behind meditation. This includes learning about the structure of the mind, and how to apply meditation to the thinking, feeling, and knowing aspects of the mind. 

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The Four Pillars of Health

The healthier you are, the better your chance to get through the coronavirus pandemic relatively unscathed. The latest research shows that people who are overweight, who have diabetes and other chronic diseases, or who smoke are more at risk of becoming seriously ill with this virus. However, there are things you can do right now to improve your health and reduce your risk.

There are four pillars of health that create a strong foundation for total wellbeing:

  1. A calm, peaceful mind and the cultivation of self-awareness.
  2. 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted, deep, restful sleep.
  3. Plenty of activity and exercise.
  4. A good diet, and appropriate fasting (especially if you are overweight).

All four pillars support each other. However, the most important is a calm, peaceful mind, which cultivates self-awareness.

Self-awareness is the most important thing you can have at this time. It is even more important than toilet paper.

There are two viruses in the world at present. One is the coronavirus. The other is psychic contagion… fear and panic.

It is because of psychic contagion that the development of self-awareness and a calm, peaceful mind is key to your health and survival. Self-awareness, which improves with deep rest and a healthy lifestyle, is critical. Self-awareness enables  you to:

  • Stop touching your face while you are potentially exposed to coronavirus.
  • Monitor your state of health and tune into your needs.
  • Know what to eat and how much exercise you need to improve your health.
  • And most importantly, self-awareness cultivates good mental health and prevents unnecessary anxiety, panic, and catastrophizing.

Every time you step outside the boundary of your front door, you are potentially exposed to coronavirus. Self-awareness enables you to move through the world outside of the relative safety of your home and remain safe and connected rather than disconnected out of fear, thereby becoming more vulnerable.

The cultivation of self-awareness and connection enables you to absorb information and process it so that you gain a sense of confidence that is grounded in reality. It is from this position that you can access your intuition and creativity to respond intelligently.

You will need a lot of self-awareness to adapt to the new world that is emerging in these next months.

The first pillar – Develop a calm, peaceful mind and self-awareness

The development of a calm, peaceful mind and self-awareness is the most challenging of the four pillars. It is much easier to modify your diet or start doing some exercise than to deal with your mind, yet your mind influences all the other pillars.

It is relatively easy to create physical health, but the mind is a much bigger fish to fry. This is because much of it is unconscious. You are only aware of a small fraction of your mind, your conscious mind, which is like a wave arising out of the ocean of the unconscious mind, which is the realm of your psyche and spirit.

Your psyche is an autonomous force, outside of your control. You need to be able to dive into the psyche via meditation to form a healthy relationship with this bigger part of you. The way to do this is by regular meditation practice.

From the point of view of the ego, the psyche is chaotic, because the forces and impulses contained within it do not conform to social norms. You can see your psyche reflected in the strange world of your dreams. There is a constant tension between your ego and your psyche, and this tension needs to be managed if you are to remain healthy, both physically and mentally.

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The Day Of The Dead | Nov 2, 2019

The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and Brazil, November 2, 2019.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. It has become a national symbol and as such is taught (for educational purposes) in the nation’s schools. Many families celebrate a traditional “All Saints’ Day” associated with the Catholic Church.
– Wikipedia

Halloween is a fun celebration mostly for children to dress as ghosts and ghouls and delightfully spook neighbors. The Day of the Dead is more personal and familial. It’s aimed at remembering the departed, the loved and unloved.

And why not celebrate our dead, remember, and commemorate?

Your reasons need not be religious or cultural. Reasons can be found in the origin of the words, commemorate, memorable, memorial, remember, and memory itself. The Latin root for these is memor, meaning “mindful”, and the Greek word mermēra, meaning “care”.
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary

We remember to be mindful of and to care for the dead. Just one day, before we forget again.

Gone And Forgotten.

Obsessed with the here and now, the new and the better, we forget the past and the departed. It’s as though we suffer mass-amnesia.

Prolific intellectual, art critic, and poet, Clive James addressed this in his tome Cultural Amnesia, published in 2007.

Shining a light on the legacies of public figures that have shaped the culture and thinking of this century, James’ central idea of the book is that cultural amnesia is a deficit that touches us all in the Western world. He traces the origins of forgetting to the mass-trauma and ongoing grief of World War 2. We are compelled to forget the inhumanity of the Holocaust, and yet, in doing so, we are impoverished both culturally and personally.

This shared forgetting causes us to neglect the history that created our here and now, the cosmic soup in which we all swim.

We neglect to even know of the public lives whose legacies we benefit from, whether by liberation, peace, beauty, or empowerment. We forget our teachers, those accessible gurus who lit our path. In a hurry to become the teacher, we overlook rightful homage to the blessings bestowed upon us. We forget grandparents and ancestors who created us, whose essence and, to an extent, superficial characteristics and temperament, we embody throughout our mortal lives.

We forget the past not only because of cultural amnesia caused by trauma, but because we prefer tangible, finite, knowable things. The Western world is focused on material living. Unless we seek it consciously, the unknown makes us feel insecure.

Death is a mystery. Without attention to the mysteries, we are poorer. As Joseph Campbell wrote in The Power of Myth, “It’s important to live life with the experience, and therefore the knowledge, of its mystery and of your own mystery. This gives life a new radiance, a new harmony, a new splendor.”
Radiance and splendor are essential to wellbeing. Without them, we are possessed by mundanity.

The Fecund Void.

“Into the void of silence, into the empty space of nothing, the joy of life is unfurled.”
— C. S. Lewis

The void is more than half of our conscious existence.

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Should Your Passion Be Buried Or Reborn?

Christine, a 40-year-old Australian artist, now living in the US, almost fell into the wrong career and surrendered her passion. But a conversation with someone she greatly admired re-orientated her life.

Words by Christine

Art and the artist’s life were my passion all through my 20s, but my 30th birthday and a broken 8-year relationship gave me a harsh reality check. Then, a steady income became more important to me than anything else.

I’d worked part-time in aged care homes. With my new aim, I trained to gain a better income, and I soon turned full time.

I planned to paint in my spare time, but it became unsustainable with a hectic social life that involved a lot of wine (and other substances), art openings, parties, celebrations, etc. Although I continued to call myself an artist, life was fun, and pleasantly uncomplicated without actually making art.

Watching Success

Years flew by without a single painting being completed. Then over a 6-month period, I noticed a fellow artist, Lucas (whose work I respected), turning out an astounding amount of work – a solo show one month, a group show the next, paid commissions the next.

“Have you hired a secret helper,” I joked at one of his exhibitions? “Oh yes, ten little fairies,” he joked back. “Seriously, what has changed”, I pressed.

“I did a course about life purpose, and it messed with my head, in the best possible way,” Lucas said.

I remember his words because, although I was happy with my therapy work and doing more training to advance my career, the fact that I did not know my life purpose made me quite sad, and very curious.

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