Here is a photo I took this morning of my altar in the corner of our apartment in Ubud, Bali. Today you see Ganesha, but sometimes you will see Jesus, Shiva, St. Francis, the Buddha… each form of the Divine has a personality that embodies aspects of our being that we are unfolding… whomever brings you closest to God is the one God calls you to recognize.
It’s a New Day
Ahhh… it’s a new year. I often find this time of year to be a tad bittersweet. Not being one to make “new year’s resolutions”, I still recognize the power of the collective conscience. This time of year, when there is a wave of people intending to release, and to refresh something of value in their lives, I can’t help but choose to ride the wave with them. The difference, this year, which subtly unfolds each January 1st, is an increasingly deep knowing about where I choose to place my intention. There are a few aspects to this:
1. Empty vessel: First, I realize that in order to be filled, naturally, with the riches that are available through right intention, I must create room for this to happen. However, this itself is a bit deceiving because I can’t really “do” this. Instead, I must create an environment that creates space for space. As it is, the emptiness that we feel when we are quiet in mind, calm in heart, and relaxed in body is the only place/space into which a nourishing, juicy intention can blossom. Sometimes we get so busy trying to “practice this healthy behavior” or “stick to commitments” that our energy dissipates, without having first established fertile ground for our words, thoughts, and deeds to firmly root.
2. Nourishing intention: I choose to devote my mental, emotional, and physical energy to something that will still nourish me long term… 5 years, 20 years, 80 years from now, will I still be experiencing the merit of this choice? If I look at what I choose as an intention, I realize quickly whether or not it will offer me long-term, real, true nourishment. If there is any question about it, I choose differently.
3. One prayerful day: It seems that I can really get myself gnarled up in a big mess of commitments, failed attempts, and hard/fast rules if I start thinking too far in the future. I cannot begin to count the times I have made a commitment beyond this day, later to find myself falling away from it entirely. So, instead, I choose to focus on this moment. This day alone. Just one prayerful day. And then tomorrow, I’ll assess and recommit.
4. Altar my consciousness: I find that one of the best practices to help me bring consciousness, and keep consciousness, as my guiding light is to create and go to my personal altar. This is a space, in my home, that is the same place each day, where I create the intention to lay down my fears and anxieties, as well as my need to control what I cannot. Your altar is your own. You can place upon it photos of your ancestors, a candle, a bell, even a deity of your liking; one through whom you can connect to your creator, call it God, call it Ishwara, call it Christ, call it Buddha, call it Ala. Whomever speaks to your heart. Place flowers, incense, readings, prayers, rice, pine cones, maple leaves, herbs… whatever connects you to nature, your true nature, and to Divinity. Let this be the place you go, same time/same place each day, to worship and to rejuvenate.
5. Let them all in: And then, as I create space, realize my right intention, stay focused on one prayerful day, and visit my altar to reaffirm the path I have chosen, inevitably, there will be visitors. Some are welcome guests, namely power, joy, peace, and prayerfulness. Others I have a tendency to shut out – not so welcome are laziness, judgment, greed, and procrastination. My work here is not to shut anyone out. Instead, my work is to open the door and let them all in…. there is a yogic practice when preparing food: always make enough food for an unexpected visitor. This is how we realize that God can and does show up in any moment, and that anyone else who shows up is an opportunity for us to know God, and to know ourselves as completely acceptable exactly as we are.
Rumi says it quite beautifully here in the poem called “The Guesthouse”
This human being is a guest house,
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all,
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows
Who violently sweep your house
Of all its' furniture.
Still treat each guest honorably.
She may be cleaning you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing, And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
May your 2010 be filled with grace. May you realize your fullness, and accept yourself completely without any need to be anything other than what you are right now, in this moment. May you realize that everything that you wish you could become, you already are, and may your intentions unfold this truth.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti