Hannah mentioned that it seemed like we had not had a family meeting for a while. I told her it had actually just been a week but that it was time to have another one. I love that our young adults at the Ashram value this time as much as I do. We were able to get all six of us together and we began, as we always do, with a time for appreciations for one another. There was a comment on how positive it made the energy to focus on the kind and helpful acts of others for a few minutes.
When we opened it up for general discussion. Dean, who had arrived almost two weeks ago for just a few days, was asked why he wanted to stay on so much longer. His response was because he was seeing such positive results from the spiritual practice at the Ashram. He said particularly the last few days while he was repainting the recycling bin and the entrance to the earthship, he found himself totally immersed in the mantra and the work for long periods of time.
He said it was after about four hours of this that all of a sudden a big group of people came to the Ashram and he was annoyed at himself for finding his mind wondering off to their conversations. Also, as someone new to karma yoga, he was not sure if he was to shift his focus to greeting the visitors and answering their questions or try to stay silent and focused.
This was all excellent fuel for the satsang (sharing of our truths) that went on for the next hour. Premanand shared that when he first learned about repeating the mantra back in 1990, he did it with so much determination that he was able to keep it going a lot. He said he felt that it has really paid off in time as far as internal transformation. Yet he also admitted it was sometimes difficult to stay focused. He said it seemed that it would all go along smooth, easy, and peaceful for a while and than it would take a lot of effort to stay with the mantra. He felt this was due to the general ups and downs of life’s journey and also that he was less overly attached to doing the mantra, as that can be an attachment too.
I mentioned that doing the mantra purifies us and that sometimes we bring up new things to work on that may not feel so easy at first. I compared it to the talk I had given last week at the Shumei’s Interfaith Gathering. I had spoken about the three gunas or qualities that are inherent in each of us representing Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati and whom we honor at the Navratri Festival each spring and fall. When Durga, the tamasic and warrior aspect, is more prominent in us, a lot of cleansing can take place rooting out slothful, negative tendencies in ourselves that are obstructing on our spiritual path. This can feel very uncomfortable and we may even begin to question our path and motives. Prayer and asking for support of the Divine, and of others too perhaps, at this time can be very helpful.
Moving through this, we begin to feel light, optimistic, and blissful, this is the arrival of Maha Lakshmi filling in space that we have made in our psyche by removing the negative traits. She represents the satvic guna or quality of upward movement, beauty, and love. We than invite Mother Saraswati, with Her precise executive skills and rajasic quality of action and creation, to help us manifest these upward qualities in the world to be of service. This period of time feels expansive, exciting, and sometimes exhausting until we lose our center and our focus on the Divine once again and we begin the cycle over.
We shared some of the stories of the Shri Mad Devi Bhagavatam that illustrated these cycles and the fact that even the gods and goddesses had all of these three qualities with some more prominent than others at certain time. Premanand said that he was blown away by reading this book, The Devi, as it made him see what a small part of the cosmology that we are and how taking ourselves so seriously over trivial matters seemed so inane. These are the stories we share during the Navratris and they often put us in a very expansive state of mind and space. The photo below is a gathering during Spring Navratri.
We than shifted back to the other part of Dean’s question about whether or not it was appropriate to shift from focusing on the mantra to greeting and helping guests. To this Jonathan responded that Babaji said we should give ourselves until our last breath for the good of humanity. He said he used to focus very strongly on the mantra but that now his focus is more on service to humanity and just doing what needs to be done. He said he often finds he is able to be with people answering their questions and still be with the mantra at the same time.
I mentioned that I often repeat the mantra when I am in conversation with someone, particularly if it is a heavy conversation, such as someone sharing some tragic events of their life with me.
Hannah shared about feeling she needed a balance of going out to people and spiritual practice so that she did not become exhausted. She said this is one of the reasons she is at the Ashram now for a month. Kailou, our sixteen-year-old, shared his pragmatic vision of life and death and filling the time in between with joyful, happy experiences that did not infringe on anyone else’s freedom to joy and happiness.
We went on to speak about over attachment to anything, including our spiritual path or the goal of enlightenment. The general consensus seemed to be a great deal of appreciation for the path of karma yoga and service to humanity that Shri Babaji had given us, which made the striving for a particular goal of enlightenment less of a focus. It was a very rich and introspective time for us all. I am so grateful for these family meetings and I know the Ashram is a richer and more meaningful place for all because of them. Bhole Baba Ki Jai!