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Being Here

Musings by Veronica

Tonight is the final night dedicated to Lakshmi, but as She "leaves" we are left with the imprint of Her presence, the lingering feeling of the touch of unending prosperity and enduring appreciation for life. She asks us to pay attention to what we are manifesting through our minds as well as our actions. She is the embodiment of the desire for fulfillment that causes Shakti to take on all of its infinite forms in order to experience the joy of existence. What can possibly come next as we move beyond the abundance of the world and the abundance of Being?

Saraswati is the final form of the Goddess who appears during Navaratri. In Her, we move from the understanding of the material world into the subtle realm of the Self, the reality that exists behind the veils of manifested reality. As we move in this direction, but are still firmly rooted in Lakshmi, we can see both where we have come from on the path as well as where we are headed. It is a unique place of being able to observe the whole process of transformation, to see the path of enlightenment in its totality while aware of our particular "place" on that path. There is great symbolism in there being three Goddess forms that mirror a very traditional depiction of the three primary male deities in the Hindu pantheon. In the masculine sense we have Brahma as the energy of creation, Vishnu as the energy of preservation/sustainability, and Shiva as the energy of dissolution/liberation. Most of the time we also name them in exactly that order because that linear progression is what makes the most sense to our minds. We like the consistency of seeing things from a beginning move through a middle and arrive at an ending. We don't spend too much time wondering about exactly when one of those things "becomes" the next one. We just assume that we will pass through all three in some recognizable way. The Goddess, however, is all about what is outside of linear understanding. She is beyond the concept of Time (Shiva is also often described this way) and therefore has no ties to linear progression. As we step into the Goddess forms through Navaratri it is almost as though we "pick up" where that linear idea of the Gods trails off. If you imagine taking a deep breath, you probably begin by observing the inhale, feeling the breath reach its pinnacle, and then find the exhale. If you have done pranayama practice you might also take note of the subtle pause the exists between the inhale and exhale. In that pause we are left to wonder - did the breath begin with the inhale? Or is the inhale a result of the exhale? And when you are in the flow of simply breathing, does it matter at all?

Navaratri begins with the energy of Durga, who would be the counterpart to Shiva in the male trinity. She is the energy of dissolving and the powerful experience of liberation. In Her we discover what it means to emerge from darkness in a real way, rather than an abstract imagination. In the breathing metaphor She is the exhale. She wipes our inner landscape clean. Next, there is Lakshmi who is the counterpart to Vishnu and in Her we uncover what it means to sustain and nurture, to be stewards of our own prana (life energy) and our own dharma (Soul purpose or "destiny"), and how to relate to the material world in which we live. Lakshmi is that middle place that is neither the new rush of an inhale or the final release of the exhale. She is breathing- knowing what it takes to draw breath in and to allow breath out in balance to what is needed. Last is Saraswati, who brings us the gifts of our own higher intellect and spiritual Truth. In Her there is the remembrance of the Self (or Soul) and a connection to the subtle, energetic world that is the blueprint for the material world. You could say She helps us comprehend and live in Truth from the highest place of understanding. She is like the inhale, filling us with inspiration and expansive awareness. In Her we "begin" again, by returning to the Source from which we emerge.

If the trinity of the Gods describes a process of creation and dissolving, or a breath from the inhale to the exhale, then the Goddess forms can be seen as the other side of that circle. They are the experience of the space between the exhale and the next inhale. Or simply that same progression taken from the opposite end. What if the exhale is where things originate? Or maybe even in that after exhale space when we are empty and begin to crave the inhale? What if creation is not the beginning, but a result of a call from deep within that emptiness? What if the endless, empty, space in between is in fact where everything is? What if we have to step into that space to even know what it is to create, to be, and to dissolve? What if we are always going to be caught in the habitual momentum of things happening UNTIL we step out of linear thinking and drop into that undefined reality of "behind-- the- scenes"? Samsara is described as the endless cycle of birth and rebirth that is driven by karma and often connected with the idea of on-going or repetitive suffering. It is associated with an aimless sort of approach to living. Life happens and you go through it and then death occurs and maybe we come back to do it all again (because we have no choice). There is no true purpose to this living, just enduring. We are not necessarily "learning" anything or "progressing" in any way. We are stuck in ignorance and unaware that we are connected to anything beyond what we can immediately see and feel. When we talk about liberation (or moksha) in yoga, we are usually referring to becoming free from samsara. We make every effort to discover what is Real and True and to uncover what has been hidden behind our ignorance and forgetfulness. We strive to "wake up" from that aimless existence, to take a deep breath after a long period of shallow unconscious breathing. In that moment, we are aware of what we are leaving behind, what we are cutting away, and we become open to that deeper experience of existence that arises into the space that we have cleared. We don't create liberation. If anything, we dissolve into it. But both creation and dissolving are not distinct moments, but are ongoing processes that can only be recognized from the space that connects them, from the middle. You can only see it, feel it, be it, from right where you are.

The Goddess frees us from the limited perspective of the linear mind. She breaks our bond with the world as we thought it was so that we can experience it as it truly is. And she does this by destroying what is unreal in our minds and opening the door for us to live from the perspective of the Soul, where our creation truly began and from where we are always manifesting ourselves. But wherever we are on the path, we can only experience all of it from right here, right now. As we move from Lakshmi to Saraswati, remember that you aren't saying good-bye to Lakshmi. You cannot (and certainly should not) leave her behind. You are always supported by her grace as you move through creation and dissolving and discovering the eternal nature of yourself over and over again. She is not just a middle place, She is knowing where you are on the path (or in your life) and that your success, however you define it, is inevitable. It's already on the way. OM Namo Lakshmi. We bow to this process of unfolding, that is both growing and dissolving all at once. May this prosperity never leave us. May we never forget the abundance of existence. May we always remember who we are, here and now.

Happy Navaratri!

OM shanti, shanti, shanti

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