Samhain

It’s Samhain, summers end, balanced between the Autumnal Equinox and Winter Solstice. Harvest completes and we and the natural world turn in towards the dark time of the year. Barren skeletons of trees dance against the backdrop of grey stormy skies, their fallen leaves rotting into the ground below them as fodder for summers yet to come.

The veil between the worlds is thin, a time for remembrance of all those who have come before and those who have already passed. For we are but a moment in the collective evolution of all of us, the seed from whence future generations of our lineage still grows.

What will we pass on?

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Surrender

It is interesting the peace that comes from surrender.  I let go of fighting something and then suddenly I see it in a whole new perspective that I couldn’t access before.  And instead of pining for something that at least currently isn’t, I’m able to be more fully in exactly what is possible, right now.  Opportunities open up that I hadn’t noticed or had been blocked from before.  Even my sight seems brighter.  Sure, there is a sense of loss, no doubt.  Then a recognition of all we gain by giving up what we can’t make happen.  Surrender not a giving up, just a letting go of whats not, and opening into what is.

The Full Pallette of Wisdom

Right now, it’s the tenth night after the nine nights of the goddess in the Indian holiday of Navaratri, see https://deniseporterkemp.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/navaratri-the-nine-nights-of-the-goddess/ for more explanation…

Something I’ve been experiencing in all this is that being open to the wisdom that comes to me includes being able to stay open to the things I don’t want to see, too – in myself and all around me. Without trying to block it or fix it. Or fix how I feel about it, no matter how raw it feels sometimes. Or feel too sorry for myself or others about it, either. Well, maybe a little bit at first…yet then letting that veil drop, too, and just breathing it in, letting it integrate, no matter how uncomfortable it is to sit with it.

For wisdom, truth as we are currently capable of experiencing it, doesn’t always show you the things you think you want to see. And being aligned with “truth” doesn’t always mean you get what you think you want. It – the wisdom, the truth – holds all sides of the spectrum. None cancels the other out, the beauty or the tragedy or the mundane that lies between. Fighting or ignoring just prolongs the suffering and keeps us from seeing what we actually have to work with.
So on this day that asks us to begin again, my intention is to continue to clear and sensitize and strengthen myself so that I can stay awake in all of it, as best I can. Not shutting any of it out just because I don’t want to have to see it. Observing, learning. Reorganizing when I realize I have been confused. Letting go of grasping for what’s not when I realize I’m doing it. With as little judgement as possible, beginning again. Embracing the potential of what lies before me, as best I can. Right now.
(written last night, October 24, 2012)

Golden Cauliflower Soup

Perfect for soaking up the warmth and sustenance of the sun on this crisp and golden autumn morning, as we shift from the final night, last night, and following day, today, of Laksmi, into the first night, tonight, of Sarasvati, in the Indian festival of Navaratri.  The goddess of good fortune and abundance in the Hindu pantheon, Laksmi is symbolized by the harvest and the light of the sun that nourishes us, and the color yellow.  Sarasvati, associated with purity and the color white, is the river of wisdom and inspiration that moves through us when we have cleared the path and built the channel strong enough to hold her.  This soup, both raw and pureed, is very cleansing and sustaining, as it moves easily and quickly through your digestive system and provides lots of food and nourishment in each bite without as much bulk in your stomach.  The fiber in cauliflower acts like a scrubbing brush that pushes other food through your system, the lemon juice an astringent that draws out impurities and leaves you feeling clean.  The tahini provides calcium and protein, the miso and soy sauce friendly enzymes, the avocado potassium, vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fats that soothe your stomach and keep your skin supple and moist in this drying time of year.  Cumin and coriander both stimulate appetite and improve digestion, and make everything more delicious!  They also balance each other as cumin is slightly warming and coriander cooling in nature.  Turmeric is also warming, and is an anti-inflammatory that relives joint pain and stimulates healing in the body.  And it imparts the golden tint to this cauliflower soup that causes even its aesthetic to reflect the blending of the golden light of Laksmi and the clear white purity of Sarasvati symbolically occurring on this day.

Enjoy!

(This recipe and some of the nutritional information is adapted from the recipe for Curried Cauliflower Soup in Brigette Mars’ amazing cookbook, “Rawsome”, which is, um, rawsome, truly…I am not raw or vegan and yet including these types of recipes in your diet can increase your nutrition and add another way of experiencing food to your repertoire of food preparation.)

Golden Cauliflower Soup

½ head cauliflower

1 avocado

Juice of ½ to 1 lemon

5 Tablespoons tahini

½ teaspoon turmeric

teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 ½ Tablespoons sweet white miso

2 or more cups water

Cut cauliflower into pieces that will fit into your food processor.  Peel and pit avocado.  Squeeze lemon juice through a strainer to remove seeds.  I use whole cumin and coriander and pulse them to a powder in a coffee grinder that I only use for spices, never coffee – coffee is too strong and will overpower the taste of all your spices.  Put everything into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Adjust water and all seasonings to desired taste and consistency.

Navaratri – the Nine Nights of the Goddess

Right now is an auspicious time in Hinduism, for we are in the midst of Navaratri, the Indian holiday celebrating nine nights of the goddess in the Hindu pantheon.  To appreciate this, the gods and goddesses don’t have to be believed in as actual beings.  They can be seen as metaphor, personifications of aspects of ourselves and in the natural world that allow us to better understand and perhaps relate to these universal qualities.

The first three nights are for Kali and Durga – names for the benevolently fierce form of the mother goddess, the goddess of death and transformation, she who clears away what blocks us and doesn’t let us get away with what keeps us stuck.  In the stories Kali carries a severed head, for she stops the chatter of our minds.  She wears a belt of severed arms, for she stops us from grasping.  Durga rides a tiger and catches the blood of the demons that haunt us on her tongue, transforming the negativity while remaining unscathed herself.  The second three nights are for Laksmi, the goddess of abundance and good fortune.  She manifests in human form to restore balance in times of darkness as Radhe, the idealized maiden, and Sita, the idealized mother and mature woman.  She helps build our strength and sustains us so that we can actualize our potential.  The third three nights are for the goddess Sarasvati, the river of wisdom that flows through us once we have cleared the path and strengthened the channel to hold her.  She is the creative goddess who moves through us and manifests our talents, and is seen as the goddess of knowledge, music, literature, and the arts.

The tenth day after the ninth night is the festival of Dusshera, also called Vijaya Dashami.  It is like being reborn – we have been cleared, we have been rebuilt strong, the wisdom flows through us.  It is considered to be a particularly potent time to begin something new, especially something creative in the arts.  As I experience each of these nights from sunset to sunset, for me, this tenth day is also the third day of Sarasvati, as it is the day after her third night.  This year, Dusshera will occur on Wednesday October 24th.

For much of the world Navaratri started this year on Monday, October 15th.  Yet because of the way the time of the new moon fell, for us here in the eastern time zone of the United States, Navaratri technically began on Tuesday, which is a rare yet occasional occurrence.  And night three and four happen on the same night, the third night of Kali shifting into the first night of Laksmi.  Which was last night, and as I experience it, into today.

Which fits perfectly with this rainy, vibrant Indian summer day.  The reds and rust of Kali and the golden ochre hues of Laksmi dancing in the trees and mixing upon the ground.  The rain cleansing and clearing the falling leaves, and the abundance of the harvest all around us.  Both warm and cool, the between time.  Shifting.  As it is said in Celtic Paganism, the veil between the worlds is thin.

Each year this autumn Sharada Navaratri, the most important of the five Navaratris celebrated throughout the year, reflects the cadence of what is happening in my own life – a transition that clears the excesses of summer into the gathering of autumn, preparing and paring down to tune in and turn in towards the introspection of winter.  I so appreciate this ritual that reminds me how we walk in rhythm with the natural world even when we are not necessarily paying attention – I usually don’t remember about Navaratri until someone reminds me and I say, Ah! Of course! And it excites me to slow down and notice what is happening inside me, and all around me, right now.

Love.

(This may not all be 100% technically correct, it is my interpretation, and as I am experiencing it as metaphor I feel alright about that.  I in no way mean to offend.  I am always interested in deepening my understanding, please share your own experience or information if you feel inclined…)

Why Meditate? One practical application…

In both Yogic and Buddhist meditation practices, to my understanding, the progression is from concentration to meditation.  The action is focusing your mind, and the result is meditation – sustained attention and awareness without, or at least with less, effort.

First you continuously bring your mind back to whatever the focus point is, often the breath, or a point in the body, or sensations in the body, or the sound, or even the silence – whatever you are “mediating,” or perhaps concentrating, on.  The focus point helps anchor your mind and keep it from wandering.  After awhile the concentration starts to sustain itself and you are just aware, both of the focus point as well as everything else, without blocking anything or being distracted by any of it.  Noticing.

Any potential distraction is not problematic in itself, it is just a part of what’s happening.  When you realize you have followed the thought or sound or whatever away from being present in the moment, or, when you notice you are caught up in the discursive thought of your mind telling you what is happening and keeping you from directly experiencing it, shift your mind back to the focus point.  You don’t have to block anything, just shift your mind back.  Over and over again.  Not that your mind can’t ever wander.  Just cultivating the ability to maintain concentration, to sustain awareness, so you can when you want or need to.

Then, when you are not “meditating” and just existing in realtime, you are potentially more likely to notice when you are distracted and be able to bring yourself back.  And each time you bring yourself back it gets easier and easier to do.  When we are conscious and directly experiencing life, we are more likely to be able to deal with whatever comes up as skillfully as possible.  And even when we aren’t able to deal with things all that well, we can watch ourselves fumble along and learn as we go.  Noticing.

Constantly evolving.

Love.