Musings by Veronica
Happy Dussehra! Nine nights celebrating the Goddess culminate in the tenth day which is considered a day of victory. Today is the day that we celebrate the victory of light over darkness, dharma over chaos, and the spread of peace. The day references the moment in the Ramayana where Rama (God in human form) is able to end his exile and return home after defeating the demon, Ravana, who was terrorizing the world. It's a moment of everything becoming "right" again. But what happens tomorrow? Does this sense of victory last? Can we remain in that peaceful state unchanging forever? What happens when the world shifts again? Does our victory become negated?
Have you ever been away on a long trip? Or just been away and felt the longing to be home? When you arrive you are suddenly so grateful for your usual environment. You love your mismatched furniture, you aren't angry at your cat, you're ecstatic there is food enough in the fridge for breakfast in the morning, and you are looking forward to being able to settle in, maybe meditate. Everything is a comfort and we feel welcome in that space, like we belong. But then you unpack and realize there is extra laundry to do and the cat did, in fact, puke in your bed, and something is broken or missing and you have a trillion emails to get back to and you forgot you said you'd help a friend out the next day and no longer want to and - where did your peace go? You are in the same place and somehow "you" have gone somewhere different. What was a moment ago may seem to disappear, be erased by whatever is troubling you now. Whatever we gain by spiritual practice can seemingly be lost just as easily (often seemingly more easily) as it was accomplished. And that's assuming we feel we have accomplished something at all. We can equally arrive home from a trip miserable because the weather was bad and the traffic was tedious and we're hungry (and there isn't food in the fridge) and we forgot to take the garbage out before we left so the house stinks, and the cat definitely did puke in the bed AND on the couch and - we can disappear in that endless unhappiness. What is the same in both of these scenarios is that home is somewhere that we are invested in and that, ultimately, we cannot abandon. We can move to a new physical location, but our lifestyle habits and reactions to life move with us. "Wherever you go, there you are". This is what the whole Navaratri experience has been about- focusing on home, building that sense of home within yourself.
It's a difficult thing to accept one's nature. I don't only mean the challenge of accepting one's spiritual nature (many of us outright reject the possibility of our innate goodness), but also the challenge of just accepting the tendencies of one's mind. Some of us have minds that run very fast naturally, some have minds that move more slowly. Some minds are highly tuned to the energies of others and some minds thrive with limited, focused, activity. Understanding your mind is the key to really cultivating this sense of home. And what is "home" again? A feeling of belonging. Many people feel like they are hiding in their own minds, afraid to move too quickly because they aren't sure what might happen. Many feel their minds are a weight to bear, or worse, a prison to escape from. We make this story about ourselves being trapped unfairly in a mind that we don't deserve and we don't understand. So what can we do? Try to change our mind, try to move out to a better neighborhood. But it doesn't really work that way. Because no matter how much effort we put in to practice we are not going to change the basic nature of the mind. It's habits can change. The contents of the thoughts can change. But the basic nature is simply what it is. As long as we are war with our nature we will generate our own unhappiness using our life experiences as fuel (and making something up if we don't have enough to work with). We will exile ourselves and look around for whose fault it is that we feel rejected and alone, homeless. Don't worry if you catch yourself doing this. Don't worry if you have habitually poured everything into your practice hoping that it will eventually change this part of you so you can be happy with yourself. Don't worry if the failure of this happening is what motivates you to try harder next time in the exact same way. (I'm speaking from experience here- I've done it all and might just end up doing it again. Who knows?). The great news is that you can start again. You can come home and start ripping up the carpets, washing the windows, and hanging new art on the wall. Or you can just come home, take a shaky breath, and stare gratefully at the roof over your head and find comfort in knowing that there's nothing you need to do this minute. The roof will keep the weather out. You can sort out the rest- tomorrow. It doesn't matter what the feeling of coming home is, just that you are willing to do it. There's no need to rush. "Home is where the heart is" and it will call the mind back to it as gently as is needed. It's just one step at a time. Victory, breath by breath.
The victory celebration of this day is meant to give us a chance to truly comprehend the joyful release of energy that comes from moving with change (instead of resisting it). We renew our investment in our home. Whatever we have accomplished we acknowledge and we renew our love and commitment to our life. We promise that we will take better care in the future, we won't forget or neglect ourselves, we'll hang on to this feeling of peace. And whatever didn't get done? We'll get to that tomorrow- maybe. The truth is that even in this victory there is the knowledge that there is always something to address, some way that balance needs to be maintained. There will always be things that feel like problems to be solved and we will likely worry about our ability to solve them in a satisfactory way. Until one day maybe we won't. Don't worry about when that will happen. Take what is here today and celebrate. Welcome what is inside of you, even if it is something that one day you hope will change or even disappear. Until then, practice loving what your mind can do and do the best you can with it. That's what practice is- doing the best we can. Understanding will happen. Change will happen. Enlightenment will happen. If not today, then definitely tomorrow (eventually). But to deny ourselves celebration of our efforts is to deny the Grace of the Goddess that appears again and again to overcome darkness. As many times as you can become lost, She appears to guide you home. That is the endless victory. Home is always there, it is never lost. We practice to bring the mind to a place of peace with itself and that divine nature that we are. The Goddess shows us the path and gives the strength and encouragement to walk it. And the love that convinces us to get up and try again when we "fail" at what we were trying to do. She reminds us that we are made of the same stuff as Her- Shakti. And Shakti is forever changing, evolving, and becoming. You will never be "done" as long as you are embodied. You will always be shifting with the world and rediscovering yourself. You will forget, despite your best efforts, and will start all over again. But once you have figured out that resting place of "home" inside yourself you are always able to be at peace (cat puke and all). And each time you return home to yourself the ability to "stay" home will be stronger. It may take a few repetitions. You may need practice. There might be several tomorrows to get through. That's ok. Home is waiting for you always.
Celebrate your achievements. Toast to your failures because they show you the way to go tomorrow. Praise your humanness and delight in your divinity. This is the culmination of Navaratri. Every day you step into yourself you are victorious. And your victories will never leave you.
I will leave you with a quote from one of my daughter's books, Tomorrow I'll Be Brave, by Jessica Hische:
"Tomorrow I'll be all the things I tried to be today...Adventurous, Strong, Smart, Curious, Creative, Confident & Brave...and if I wasn't one of them, I know that it's okay. But tonight I'm very sleepy, so now it's time to rest. Tomorrow I'll be all these things or at least I'll try my best."
Jai Ma, Jai Ma, Jai Jai Ma!
Happy Navaratri & Happy Dussehra
OM shanti, shanti, shanti