Musings by Veronica Yacco
Spring brings with it an energy of growth. Contained within that simple word we can experience the excitement of new beginnings full of potential along with the brilliant results of growth reaching its pinnacle. Part of the excitement of the beginning is the anticipation of the pinnacle, when we get to reap the harvest of what we have poured our energy into. There's satisfaction we are waiting to enjoy to makes the work of growing worth it. We tend to gloss over the less glamorous (less satisfying) aspects of growth. No one particularly wants to hang out in the awkward stages of growth, when everything is tenuous and unsure and there's the very real possibility that we may never arrive at that pinnacle we are hoping to reach. Sorry - are we talking about plants or people here? Because it seems that when we are in the position to cultivate the growth of another we are much more tolerant of that awkward stage. We take more care when we see a plant or animal struggling in its growth. We try to do everything we can to help it succeed. Maybe we are even pretty good at doing that with children. But at what point do we stop considering that awkwardness acceptable? When do we cut ourselves off from where we can keep growing and start limiting our expectations (and our enjoyment) of what our life will contain? When do we turn away from the prosperity that is synonymous with the ability and willingness to keep growing? And if we have turned away, how do we turn back?
The questions we ask ourselves about how and why we live the way we do build the channels through which Divine energy can flow. If we have no questions, no open space, no belief that there is anything more for us, then there is nowhere for the answers to our prayers to take root. And Lakshmi is all about things taking root. She appears as a manifestation of cosmic abundance and fertility, that pure potential for all things to flourish in a multitude of ways. And in an abstract sense we are all connected to Her. But She can only work within the space that we provide for Her. In one of my favorite stories of Lakshmi She is going from house to house leaving gifts. But She comes to one house where is no space for Her to leave anything so She turns the stove to gold and leaves. It's funny in my mind because on one hand we can admire that She finds a way to leave a gift even when it seems no space is available for one. On the other hand Her gift makes a valuable and necessary tool of the home completely unusable! Imagine when the family awakens in the morning to find that they have no way to make breakfast. (Of course the gold from the old stove will buy them a new one, but still you have to laugh at the odd exchange that is being made). But maybe Lakshmi is very wise and knows that this is a family that doesn't do a lot of cooking. Who knows? What we can take away from the story is that the way we make space (or that we don't) will dictate how prosperity shows itself in our life. If we are limited in the ways that we can accept growth then our prosperity will seem to show itself in limited ways. In order to see the overflowing abundance of our lives we have to be willing to be over-flowed....to accept that to receive the grace of the Universe we have to keep growing to keep pace with it and to provide ever-changing vessels for it to take shape in.
If Lakshmi's gifts become limited to things, even abstract spiritual concepts like wisdom or purity (these are still "things"), then we fall into that dynamic of only engaging with life in order to reach those pinnacles or to acquire what we are seeking. If our growth ceases the moment we think we have acquired something then whatever we have begins to stagnate and eventually decay. We will lose it rather quickly with no continued living energy to renew it. This is the story of Lakshmi over and over. When She is limited or undervalued She withdraws and growth ceases to happen. Nothing wants to continue the process of living. The desire is gone (even to acquire or achieve). The pleasure is gone. The world stagnates and begins to die. Lakshmi's return is a renewal of the process of living, everything that is necessary to be in place for something to begin and all of the resources necessary for those seemingly awkward stages of change that constitute growth. It's the reminder that pleasure and enjoyment are meant to be continuous as they are ever-changing. We can enjoy the beauty of the flowers of spring and summer because we know that they are short-lived so their blooming is a great testament to Nature's creativity and courage. Everything grows knowing on some level that it will die, so the growing itself is courage. And this is the root of prosperity. The courage to keep growing, as awkward as it may feel, not to find a pinnacle, but to continue to explore the great depths of creativity that exist within us and in the world is the prosperity that never ends and can never diminish. It doesn't matter what things happen to come our way along the path of living. They are vessels of the abundance, not the abundance itself. That can only truly be known in the process of breaking down and opening further, like Nature so beautifully does all the time. Knowing ourselves to be part of that cycle can be exhilarating. We are always on the threshold of something amazing and can maybe feel that sense of satisfaction and completion moment to moment, whatever we happen to be experiencing. Even the decay in our life can become fuel for future growth for it too is part of that cycle. Feeling that never - ending potential is the gift of Lakshmi.
When you see Lakshmi, She is almost always depicted with a lotus (holding them, standing or seated on one, etc.). The lotus as a spiritual symbol is described as being rooted in the mud, but transcends that state by reaching for the light that it can perceive, but can't quite reach. Eventually it rises above the water within which it is rooted and blooms, completely open to the light and now impervious to the mud (it rolls right off the petals). It's a beautiful metaphor for spiritual aspiration and for growth. And it represents Lakshmi well as long as we don't forget that what allows for the continuous blooming of the flower is the connection to the mud. The mud feeds it. And as leaves and material die around the flower and sink below the surface of the water, it composts and become the nutrients that allow for further blossoming. The lotus itself is not the abundance. It is a vessel for the transformative power that took old decay as its foundation and pulled from it the beauty of openness. Our abundance and prosperity lies in our ability to transform what we have into ever more creative opportunities to experience the satisfaction and pleasure of being in the world. If we are seeking the path of the lotus, we have to become good at not just playing in the mud (as many of us do for decades, if not lifetimes, at a time), but composting, finding the resources in what is done and has served its purpose that will empower new beginnings. Lakshmi's teaching is that we are never without what we need. But our limitations on how we are willing to use it will dictate how full we feel our vessels are.
Some people will see their glass as half empty. Some will see their glass as half full. Some will be grateful to simply have a glass. Lakshmi wonders what will you do with the water? What will you grow from it? How will you keep emptying the glass so that it may be filled again? And are you willing to drink all of the waters of life or only the tastes you have become accustomed to? I wish for you this Navaratri, more water than you can possibly drink and at least one golden utensil that you don't know what to do with. Overflow with the joy of discovering what the world holds and how big your heart can be to feel it.