September 14, 2013

The Healing Power of the Moon

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in. 
- Leonard Cohen

I'm not sure I can really describe this experience.

So tonight, we prepared to go outside to do our usual ritual. We being the dogs and J and I. We're outside, and I realize suddenly, once we are out of the shadow of our house, that the moon is actually illuminating our yard.

I decide to forgo the flashlight I had brought.

I struggled to read the text of my ritual. This made time for every word to feel intentional, and for me to feel the weight of each sound in my mouth. I could trace the lines between the moonlit page, my eyes, the neurons in my brain, the sound in my throat, and the way my tongue felt as it moved around my mouth.

Time slowed.

For a blessed moment, I felt still.

At points, the reflection of the moon on my laminated page would catch my eye the right way, and it was blinding, for a brief but brilliant moment.

I looked away from my page to give offerings, and I noticed my littlest canine companion quietly enjoying the coolness of the dewy grass, his eyes glinting in the soft moonlight. He looked peaceful and at home; he looked like he was in his element.

In what has been a tumultuous and chaotic time for all of us, I felt the door creak open just a little bit wider. A little more room for some light to get through. The moon illuminated the potential for us to have a healthy, happy, peaceful existence full of joy and refreshing moments of cool grass under our furry feet.

When you have endured such mind altering pain that more often than not you wished that your life had ended long ago, and the possibility of improvement seems like something you neither deserve nor reasonably ever expect, moments like this are rare. More than rare. Legendary. Elusive. They take on that fairy tale quality of something having occurred long ago and far away.

Seeing my little dog, my little kindred spirit, being calm and meditative in his own yard, brought tears to my eyes. Under the giant lunar goddess, with a cool breeze at our backs, I dared to dream that this might be my turning point.

Could it be that all of the cracks I've endured at the hands of an illness plagued existence have finally let in some light?

Ritual Experiment #15: Jaya Ganesha!

So obviously I haven't been blogging every day. As you do more and more of these, they tend to start sounding samey-samey. So, I'm just writing about the particularly interesting ones. Okay? Okay.

So for Ganesha Chaturthi this past Monday, I went all out. Ganesha is the deity I work with most, I guess you'd say, so I decided to throw him a veritable party. I aggregated some ideas from various websites (that being one of them... gotta start bookmarking this stuff), and used what I liked most, and what seemed to be the most true for how I feel about how Ganesha works in my life. Here's what I did, and what you'll need if you ever want to undertake such a ritual.

List of Ritual Accoutrements:

- Red sandal paste (in this case, I put a sandalwood mala I had in a special container of water)
- Rice
- Flowers (hibiscus is supposedly Ganesha's favourite... I used white roses)
- Milk
- Curd (I used good ol' cheddar. Improvisation for the win)
- Ghee (I used butter. Ain't nobody got time for clarifyin')
- Honey
- Sugar
- A dishrag/face cloth
- White thread
- Grass (there's a specific Indian kind that you're supposed to use, but I just went with "green")
- Leaves
- Incense (in my case, a Nag Champa candle)
- Candy (I hope Ganesh likes sour cherry blasters)
- Dried fruit
- Nuts
- Clove
- Cinnamon
- Perfume (scented after shower spray?)
- Coins
- Cauldron, or something to wash your hands in
- Sacred water
- Some kind of Ganesh idol
- Probably a few extra bowls

And don't forget the patio furniture!

Here's the ritual outline. I don't claim to be a Hindu, and Ganesha isn't technically a part of the Vedic pantheon (he's post-Vedic), so I hope I don't offend both Hindus and Druids by undertaking this mishmash ritual. All experiments are undertaken with the utmost respect. Scout's honour!

Say: Vakratund mahakay suryakoti samaphraba. Nirvignan kuru me dev sarvakaryesu sarvada.

Walk counterclockwise around the Ganesh idol.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah x 3

Say: Aum x 3

Take a sip of sacred water.

Say: Please purify me, Ganesha, that I may offer you praise.

Wash hands.

Sprinkle Ganesha with rice grains and flowers.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah asanam samarpayami.

Wash Ganesha's feet with rice and sandalwood infused water.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah padyam samarpayami.

Wash Ganesha's hands with water mixed with rice and flowers.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah samarpayami.

Offer the idol water three times while chanting aum shri Ganeshya namah achmaneeyam samarpayami.

Bathe idol with milk, curd, sugar, and honey.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah panchamrita snanam samarpayami.

Bathe Ganesha with water, then milk.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah payah snanam samarpayami.

Present the idol with curd (cheese).

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah dadhi snanam samarpayami.

Present the idol with ghee (butter)

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah grut snanam samarpayami.

Present the idol with honey.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah madhu snanam samarpayami.

Present the idol with sugar.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah sarkara snanam samarpayami.

Offer the idol sacred water, and wipe it clean.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah uttaraposhnam samarpayami.

Place two white threads around the idol.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah yagyopveetam samarpayami.

Sprinkle rice on the idol.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah akshtam samarpayami.

Sprinkle flowers on the idol.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah puspam samarpayami.

Sprinkle grass on the idol.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah purvan kuran samarpayami.

Sprinkle leaves on the idol.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah bilvapatram samarpayami.

Bathe the idol with incense.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah bhoopam agrapyami.

Bathe the idol with candlelight.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah deepam parshyami.

Sprinkle sweets on the idol.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah naivedyam samarpayami.

Sprinkle fruit on the idol.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah phalam samarpayami.

Sprinkle the nuts, clove, and cinnamon on the idol.

Say: Aum shri ganeshya tamboolam samarpayami.

Anoint the idol with perfume.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah stram samarpayami.

Offer Ganesha coins.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah dakshinam samarpayami.

Sprinkle Ganesha with water containing the rice, flowers, and grass.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah vishesh argyam samarpayami.

Bow before Ganesha.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah.

Walk clockwise around the idol.

Say: Aum shri Ganeshya namah pradakshinam samarpayami.

Holy crap. Okay. So if you're still reading, CONGRATULATIONS! And THANK YOU! This is absolutely the most work I've ever put into a ritual in my personal practice. 

... I need a bigger Ganesh.

How did it feel? Well... other than busy, it felt really good. I really wanted to do Ganesha some serious honour, and I truly went all out. I don't have a whole lot of energy for much, so this was no small undertaking. I felt really centered after the ritual, and placed the offerings in the Shining Ones area of my rock garden at the end of my yard. It felt appropriate, I guess, and I felt connected to the day in a way I haven't yet experienced. As small as my celebrations were compared to what must happen in India, it felt grandiose and exotic enough to transport me, even for a moment or two. And of course, there's nothing like trying to pronounce Sanskrit to make you feel like you're somewhere else.

Rose love for the Trunk-ed One

So, to sum it up, honey is really hard to get off of wooden statues. Dogs will try to eat anything (yes, even sour cherry blasters). And hopefully there's a balance to be struck between intention (a.k.a. not having time to clarify your butter) and replication (a.k.a. attempting to speak ancient languages). 

Replication might be too strong a word for the latter.