The theme this month is gratitude, a perfect accompaniment to a great Thanksgiving here at the Ashram. We shared at our meal about what we are thankful for and why. I said I was thankful of course for Shri Babaji and the Divine Mother and also for all of my families because they bring so much love into my life. I really am a millionaire when it comes to families. I have my biological family with 8 living siblings, my own children and seven grandchildren, and at least 50 nieces, nephews, and grand nieces and nephews. Whew!
As if this is not enough, I also have my beloved Ashram family. Living here with Jonathan and Premanand and now Theo brings such joy in my life. It is a peaceful knowingness that we would all do anything needed to help one another out. At the family meeting this morning, we all shared about what is going on with us. Sometimes it is me, sometimes it is one of the others that may be having a more difficult time, and we just listen and love them. If we have any suggestions or experiences dealing with what is going on, we may share this. It is always a rich time to talk about anything on our minds and come closer together by understanding each others' perspectives.
Of course, there is also the larger Ashram family. It always amazes me at how quickly we become family when we share deep love with one another. Just an hour ago a family of three generations came into the Shop. As we spoke we found out they were originally from Brussels. Theo, who lived in Brussels for nine years realized she lived within a block of where they had lived. Squatting down to his level, I had some very nice conversation with their three-year-old son, Santiago. By the time they left, we all hugged good-by. My experience with Shri Babaji is that everyone was His family, and we seem to follow that traditon here too.
This Ashram family includes hundreds of people. Most we see over and over again, even when they move great distances away. Like the family that was with us over Thanksgiving. They began coming to the Ashram when their older daughters were little and they lived in Colorado Springs. They moved to Washington DC about eight years ago, where they had their youngest son, Krishna and now their eldest daughter is headed to college. It was wonderful to have them all here at the Thanksgiving table, their sharing of gratitude for their parents and family and having this Ashram and Babaji in their lives, touched my heart.
I am also now very grateful for my new family from the Real Love organization. On a local level a small group of us have been meeting once a week sharing about our truest, deepest selves and just being loved and accepted by one another without any judgement, just like Shri Babaji did. It is so nourishing. On a broader level I have spoken to many new family members over the telephone and received love and guidance from them when I was having a difficult moment.
I can share one experience that really touched my soul. After a fairly solo orchestration of the full-moon fire ceremony last Wednesday (Prem was busy fixing the pump and others were out of town), I did all the havan dishes, despite knowing that I was exhausted and hungry with no breakfast, of course, before havan. By the time I got down to the earthship, it was nearly 1pm and still there were people asking for help in the Shop or with questions. Someone shared some information with me that sort of shocked me and I found myself getting really angry as I ate some lunch (it had nothing to do with the person that shared the information). According to Real Love, it is advised to not speak when feeling this way particularly in a crowd like there was at the feast after the fire. So I went to my hermitage and took a much needed nap. When I woke up though, I was still angry and so I called one of my Real Love friends. This gentleman, whom I have never met, lives in Texas. He listened patiently and then pointed our some of his observations to me, primarily that I had a lot of choices that I had made and perhaps could have made different choices. In his total accepting and non-judgemental way of telling me this, I was able to see the several places that I had made choices that were not in my or anyone else's best interest. I felt deep peace coming back over me as I hung up the phone, maybe 20 minutes later. I was struck, almost to tears, by the generosity of a relatively complete stranger to be there for me in this way. There are friends in this family all over the world who put their names and email addresses on the Real Love website and are available to take these kinds of calls from others just to share the love. What unconditional love!
I also want to express my appreciation to Hannah Strong's husband, who passed away two days ago at the age of 86, for providing this land to enable so many spiritual centers to come to Crestone. We send our prayers for him and his family.
I am deeply grateful for each of you reading this newsletter and all of these other people in my life. All of us at the Ashram wish you a blessed Holy Season ahead.
In Truth and Love,
Ceremonies and Schedule
The new-moon fire ceremony this month is on Friday, December 11 and the full-moon fire ceremony will be on Friday, December 25 (Christmas Day). The fire ceremonies begin at 10am and are followed by a meal. Please arrive ten minutes early, freshly bathed, in a long skirt or pants with shoulders covered, and having fasted from grains, cereals, meat, eggs, garlic and onions. Fruit, yogurt, nuts, veggies and tea or coffee are fine to eat before. Also, if you have a dietary need for something more hearty before our meal at 11:30 or so, please partake.
Our evening aarati will shift to 5pm and morning aarati to 8am, during this dark and cold month of December also allowing the residents to have a little extra rest after an extremely busy year. Paduka puja in Shri Babaji’s kutir is at 7am. We also have a small daily indoor havan, fire ceremony, at 7:30am each morning. We do not have the small one when we have our large fire ceremony on new and full moon. Lunch is served at about 1pm, and we invite you to join us. (Call if you are a group or have special dietary needs.) The Maha Lakshmi Shop is open every day from 10am until 4pm. We love to see you.
If you would like to participate by sponsoring a fire ceremony or a bhandara (feast), we would be happy to send you a blessed item from the fire ceremony if you request. They are:
$27 sponsorship - Copper, brass, nickel Om Namah Shivaya bracelet
$54 sponsorship - Rudraksha, Rosewood, or Tulsi Mala
$108 sponsorship - Rose Quartz Mala or a copper, silver, brass Om Haidakhandi bracelet
Bal Gokulam - Children's Christmas Program - Saturday, December 12 at 10:30am
Our annual Christmas Bal Gokulam, children's program, will be held on Saturday, December 12 from 10:30am until noon followed by a potluck meal. Bal means Child and Gokulam is the place where Lord Krishna spent his childhood days. In Gokulam, Krishna blossomed in talent, mischief, strength and also divinity. Thus, Bal Gokulam is a special place for children to learn together, discover their unique potential, and really shine. At this gathering we will share yoga, singing, stories, crafts, decorate the temple for Christmas, and a puja (ceremony) honoring Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Parents must remain at the Ashram during the program.
For more information or to let us know what you are bringing for the potluck, please call facilitators: Kelly at 719-256-5511, Vesper at 719-256-4569, or Ramloti at the Ashram at 719-256-4108
Premanand, Richard, and I are looking forward to joining devotees on both coasts of Florida for chanting, puja, fire ceremonies, satsang, and aaratis. We love to be with you all. I will also be carrying goods from the Maha Lakshmi Shop, so if you have a special request, please let me know by the 5th of January and I will do my best to carry it to you. Here is where you can join us.
Friday, January 8 at 7pm - Puja, chanting, and satsang at Bob Walsh's home in Plantation, Florida. Call Bob at 954-873-8083 for more information and location.
Saturday, January 9 at 11am - Chandan, fire ceremony, and chanting at Elaine Heraoux's home in Jupiter, Florda followed by a potluck lunch. Call Elaine at 516-277-8326 for more information and location.
Sunday, January 10 at 10am - Chandan, fire ceremony, aarati, and chanting at Harmony House in Del Ray Beach, Florida followed by a potluck lunch. Call Sarena at 561-274-0883 for more information and location.
Monday, January 11 at 7pm - Puja, chanting, and satsang at Sacred Lands in St. Petersburg, Florida. Call Sharda and Jeffrey at 727-363-0800 for information and locations for this and Treasure Island program.
Thursday, January 14 - Paduka puja, aarati, fire ceremony, workshop on unconditonal love, and sacred plunge in the ocean at Jeffrey and Sharda's home in Treasure Island, Florida.
Shivaratri - Monday Night, March 7 from 10pm - 4am
Fire Ceremony on Tuesday, March 8 at 10am
On this special night when the energy of Lord Shiva is said to be most present on the earth, we will chant in the temple from 10pm until 4am. We will have special lingam pujas every three hours beginning at 7pm and ending at 4am honoring the lingam with milk, yogurt, honey, and ghee. We invite you to join us for all or part of the evening, it is always high energy and a night of deep inspiration.
The next morning, being the new-moon, we will have our fire ceremony at 10am followed by a meal. All are welcome.
Meet our New Board Member, Linda Joseph
I first came to the Ashram in 1989 at the time of the dedication of the Temple. It was a powerful experience at an evening of chanting in Florida with Ramloti and Sondra Ray, and slideshow of the Ashram property and building of the Temple, that compelled that first visit. Drawn back many times over the next few years, I moved to the Crestone area in 1992 with Kailash, later co-founding a rural residential cooperative together about a 1/2 hour drive in the north end of the San Luis Valley, where I’ve lived since 1997.
I've worked with Manitou Foundation, Manitou Institute & Conservancy and other non-profit organizations locally and internationally, and also served as County Commissioner here from 2007-2015.
Like for so many others, the Ashram is a special place for me - where I first came to understand devotion and surrender; where Baba, Mother and the land spoke strongly to me, and moved me and my life path; where family helped build the early buildings, systems, gardens and many friends have shared in programs and Karma Yoga together. Most of the last 8 years my work as County Commissioner was all consuming, and I am glad to re-connect now more deeply with the Ashram again, and to serve on the Board.
Karma Yoga at the Ashram
Once again, Shri Babaji and the Divine Mother sent just the right helpers to pull off a spectacular Diwali, Festival of Lights. Folks from as far away as Greece, India, Minnesota, Denver, Alamosa, Monte Vista, Pueblo, and Crestone all rallied together to prepare and orchestrate a wonderful event. The clean up, which usually takes hours, only took a couple of hours, giving us time for satsang and a relaxed lunch time. Thank you to all who gave of themselves and to all who helped at other times this month.
We are also already beginning the sewing for the Spring Navratri and happy to have Asha and Natasha here to help with that. The first major snow fall saw a group of karma yogis from Valley Verde School in Sedona, AZ shoveling the driveway and sweeping pathways. The rest were in the kitchen making lunch and baking goodies, while some were in cleaning the Shop. Once again, just the right helpers for the occasion.
A special thanks to Theo from Greece who arrived the week before Diwali (after seeing a poster at the hot springs) and has been here ever since. She has been a miraculous help with all the new shop orders coming in which necessitated us redesigning the whole Maha Lakshmi Shop. Everything is as clean as can be with her loving touch in all of the buildings. She and we hope that she will be staying for some time.
We ask each of you to look into your hearts and see what this Ashram means to you and to please donate as you are able. You may go to our website and donate through PayPal, (you can even set up a monthly tithe). You can also send a check (made out to HUA) to P.O. Box 9, Crestone, CO 81131; or you can call us at 719-256-4108 with a credit card number. We want to thank you for your support, love, and prayers. Bhole Baba Ki Jai!
Diwali, Festival of Lights
Such a special event this was at the Ashram when many groups from around the area gathered with us to share songs of peace and light. With the theme of light over darkness we had people share from the Sufi traditon, the Shumeis, the Native American traditon, chants from India, the Sikh traditon, Dances of Universal Peace, and a sweet song and dance by the children from the Charter School. Over 100 people gathered in our candlelit temple sharing this wonderful time together. The food, prepared and served by our loving Indian families from Alamosa, Monte Vista, and Pueblo, was abundant and delicious. Such gratitude to all that made this evening of evenings possible. Jai Ma!
Here is a note from a new attendee at the Festival, Carol from Colorado Springs:
"When I received the monthly newsletter and read about the planned Diwali celebration I immediately felt that I wanted to come to the ashram to attend it. Unfortunately I had lunch plans that day with friends and I live 3 hours away so I let it go. Then a couple days later my friends cancelled our lunch plans and the Divine whispered "go to the ashram". I immediately called and secured a bed for the night of Diwali. It was such a blessing to spend time at the ashram with Ramloti, Prem, Jonathan, Rita and all the participants! I felt the Divine grace flowing during karma yoga, aarati, and havan which opened my heart in such a wonderful way. The beautiful Diwali havan and evening celebration allowed me to feel totally connected to the Divine. I still feel lighter and more connected to the Divine. Thank you Divine Mother and Sri Babaji! Om Namah Shivaya!"
Thanksgiving at the Ashram
As I wrote about above, we had a lovely family from Washington DC with us for Thanksgiving as well as some of our local friends and other visitors. After a delicious lunch and gratitude sharing we celebrated by going to the Buddhist Stuppah and the Shumei Center. It is always a treat to visit our neighboring centers!
Movie Manor Ashram Extravaganza – Cancelled for March, 2016
After finally finding a weekend that was not too busy and posting it last month, we realized that this is the weekend of the Annual Crane Festival in Monte Vista. They utilize the full Movie Manor and their restaurant that weekend, so it is not possible to have it this weekend either. We will have to consider a date in the future but for now it is cancelled. We will keep you posted.
Groups Visit the Ashram
Even with the colder weather, we still have many groups coming to the Ashram to learn, to serve, and to participate. We had a group from Colorado College, a group from Verde Valley High School in Sedona, AZ and a group from the new Balaji Temple in Castle Rock, CO. We love to share Shri Babaji and the Divine Mother's home with others. Thank you for coming.
Visitors to the Ashram
Despite some cold and snowy weather, visitors still keep coming to the Ashram. We love it! A special visitor this month was Jenn Dopierala from Brooklyn, NY. Jenn was one of our first employees at the Ashram and we loved having her here so much. She and her husband and children moved away from Crestone a couple of years ago. Here she is pictured with Deborah Michalak, her replacement at the Ashram. It is a blessing to see all who come here and the love and devotion that you bring to the Ashram is deeply felt and appreciated.