Musings by Veronica
Happy Navaratri- welcome the second night dedicated to Lakshmi
I want you to meditate on glitter. Yes- glitter. The stuff that is simultaneously pretty and intriguing and also obnoxious and ostentatious. The stuff that sticks to everything and NEVER goes away completely once it's touched you (I think we've all had that moment of finding a single speck of glitter years after the source of the sparkles is gone). It's this last quality that I want you to "stick" with (see what I did there? Lol). One of the embodiments of Lakshmi is what is called Shri, described as resplendent light, or sometimes a sparkling/glittery awareness that overlays everything. This isn't a physical sparkle, but something we perceive from inside ourselves. It is the feeling of prosperity, and when we are in it things may seem to be truly perfect just as they are (even if arguments can be made otherwise). We can spontaneously find ourselves experiencing moments of this throughout our lives, but generally speaking I don't think most of us would say our day- to- day existence is "sparkling" in this way. Our minds are clouded over with worries and doubts and overburdened with aspirations that we may never succeed in (and usually have forgotten why we we wanted to in the first place). This leads us to always be looking for things to be somehow "other" than what they are, so that our inner unhappiness can be eased. We struggle with finding peace with what we feel about ourselves and our place in the world. Eventually even those spontaneous moments of happiness start to become cloudy and lose their sparkle. This is the perfect time to call on Lakshmi- to bring us back to what it feels like to be excited about life and to feel that there is that sparkle that occurs naturally in the world and in ourselves. We don't have to earn it- it's inherent in who we are. But we do have to develop a clarity in our minds for that experience of shri to be consistent rather than fleeting.
Maybe it's only me, but I have always felt that Lakshmi is not given the serious credit that She is due. We speak about her in terms of instances of grace, like the surprise gifts that appear in our lives, or those heightened moments when we are truly excited about whatever we have (or are about to have). We attach Lakshmi to material things and even sometimes to abstract spiritual things- but we are still looking at her primarily in association to objects (even a beloved moment in time becomes an object once we define it as something we can hold on to). We miss how much the bigger understanding of Lakshmi emerges from relationship. Lakshmi is the energy that holds the world together, sustains everything that exists, and that goes completely unnoticed by the beings it enlivens. Lakshmi appears as this embodiment of beauty and luxury, but She is truly always at work. And shri is the joyful expression of the work that She does. Lakshmi never complains. If something is out of balance and there is no longer respect for the what has been created then she simply removes herself. She disappears. And let's whoever it is who has become careless be shocked back into attention when what they took for granted begins to fall apart. It's only when those individuals start to take responsibility for the upkeep of their relationship to the world, and to the things in it, that She reappears. She is happy to tirelessly maintain the conditions for life to evolve and flourish as long as that life plays its part and works within the flow of dharma (basically each being simply lives authentically as what it is). For humans, because we have the capacity to really comprehend the big picture of how life is interconnected and intricately interdependent, we become stewards of that dharma as well, and with that comes an added layer of responsibility. First we are asked to acknowledge what a true blessing it is simply to BE. And second, we are asked not to willfully disregard what we have been given or use it in a destructive way that is to the detriment of our fellow beings and the world itself (this is Lakshmi's greatest work of art after all). Ultimately this means we are asked to be in charge of our minds.
Lakshmi's presence is everywhere- as we've said She is the stuff that holds the world together. You cannot help but be in Her presence. She is so ubiquitous that we "forget" that she is in everything we experience (or behind it if you want to think of it that way). We habitually take for granted that what we have is valuable because we didn't specifically ask for it or necessarily feel that we "worked" for it. Already we can start to unravel a knot in our mind that assumes that abundance or prosperity is a gift to be earned or a reward in exchange for work or suffering. Remember that concept of glitter and how it clings. Shri, or that shining quality in our perception of things can be found everywhere and from every experience. It is naturally arising and naturally pervasive. Most of us feel it (or remember feeling it) much more as a child, when the world wasn't so full of impossible things and we weren't so tired of so much of it. Our mind's don't truly change as we get older, but we have a tendency to fill it with more "things". The only thing standing in the way of our vision seeing that sparkle again, in the everyday and in the special moments, is a clouded mind. So what do we do? Begin cleaning. I jokingly always bring up that one of the simplest practices to be in touch with Lakshmi is to clean your house (I say jokingly because my house is never clean or really tidy). Even better is to clean the mind- without the use of harsh chemicals like judgment and ultimatums to yourself. Re-examine your expectations for yourself. Maybe make a "Things I Did" list instead of only having a "To Do" list. Take time to discover what brings your mind to rest and not just distraction. If you are feeling brave (and you might if you've been calling on Durga), start to notice what is the source of those depressed places in your mind. Where have you lost love for the world and where can you still find it in yourself? Can you identify a moment of that sparkling feeling and stay with it. If it fades or your forget, bring it back. And keep brining it back until the glow inside feels natural, like it's supposed to be there. Cultivate shri by using joy as your drishti (inner focus). Focus is the gateway to absorption. Practice becoming absorbed in the feeling of joy that is not limited to any specific moment or thing. That is shri. That is Lakshmi.
Don't worry about the results of this inner cleaning. There's no deadline and Lakshmi never criticizes. Take all the time you need, and devote all the attention you can. There is literally nothing more important you can do. Space will open up as awareness expands and worry is relinquished. Focusing on joy can help that happen. And where there is space, where She can be seen and appreciated, Lakshmi appears and, as is said, She turns everything to gold (maybe with a dusting of glitter).
OM shanti, shanti, shanti