A blessed New Year to all, may it bring you closer to the Divine in whatever path you are on.
As I step into this new year I am deeply humbled and in awe of all I have received in this last year. It has been an exciting year full of new learning, new lifestyle additions, new relationships, and many deep awakenings. It has not always been easy, but it always amazes me how just putting one foot in front of the other and following through on my commitments (for example my daily hatha yoga practice) day after day, it suddenly becomes a lifestyle change. Just like I sleep, eat, go to aarati, do the fire ceremony, bathe, and work daily; I now do hatha yoga with all of its profound teachings for my body and psyche.
My Real Love work has also become a daily exercise in awareness. The question: “What is my motive behind this action?" comes to mind more and more often. I gradually am able to see when I do things out of my childhood need to please people and gain their approval, or my even deeper fear of making a mistake. I can then take some deep breaths, remember how much I am unconditionally loved by Shri Babaji, the Divine Mother, and all my friends; and reassess my action. Tapping into this fullness, I can proceed on with clearer insight, more creativity, more joy, and a generous outflow for the good of another, the Ashram, or the whole cosmos. It often looks very much like the same action on the exterior level but the energy behind it is totally different. I think most feel the difference and I do immensely!
Another question that arises when I am having a conversation with one or many people, “Why do I want to say this?” If the answer is to make myself look more important, wise, entertaining, or special so that I can receive others approval or praise; I begin to make choices to not say it. Instead I dive deeper into feeling unconditional love and reach out to people from my heart for their benefit, not mine. The interesting thing is that this feels so much better, easier, and peaceful than always being the queen bee of a conversation!
Through our weekly Real Love group and just making a commitment to deep authenticity with people, I have made new friends who I love to spend time with sharing our realizations, our mistakes, and our unconditional love. At our New Year’s lunch I sat with Lama Zoe, James, Swaha, Theo, Rita, Jonathan, Bill, Ana, Lama Dawa, Mark, Catrina, Bhargavi, Sastry, their two children, and Sundar and shared our gratitude for the lessons learned in 2015 and our aspirations for 2016. It was a deeply touching time together.
I did some “Color Work" based on the work of Professor Luscher with James O’Dea, (author of the amazing book, “Conscious Activist”) who modified the work. My bottom or base color was brown representing timing in my life. As I spoke about in the November newsletter, I definitely feel it is the wintertime for me. It is a time for deep introspection and gathering in energetically for the burst of life of springtime. I also realized that as I am turning 67 next month, it is also coming upon perhaps my last quarter of my life. To ponder on this brings two prominent feelings to me.
The first is a feeling of coming to balance. I have worked very hard all of my life and now, so that I will not have to write the kind of poems that some write on their deathbeds about wishing they had spent more time with family and friends, watching clouds, frolicking in the woods, and smelling the flowers; I am choosing to do more of that. When I stand in front of my closet in the morning, I ask myself, “What do I feel like wearing?” instead of “What should I wear?”, somehow my outfits are far more fun and playful these days.
The next feeling that comes up as I ponder the possibility that this may be the last quarter of my life, is a sense of “Now is the Time” to get it. I have been on a spiritual path most of my life and am deeply grateful for where that has taken me, primarily to the lotus feet of Shri Babaji, and now is the time to put all that I have learned into practical application and do it. For me, that means questioning, reviewing, and using my very strong will to apply it on not only a daily practice but a moment to moment practice.
So I would say that 2015 has not only been a good year for me, it has been a momentous year and I look forward to 2016 with great enthusiasm and hope for me and the whole world to find greater peace and unconditional love.
In Truth and Love,
Ceremonies and Schedule
The new-moon fire ceremony this month is on Saturday, January 9 (it will be in the smaller havan kund with Jonathan presiding since Premanand and I will be in Florida) and the full-moon fire ceremony will be on Saturday, January 23. 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 continue at 5pm and morning aarati at 8am, during this dark and cold month of January also allowing the residents to have a little extra rest after an extremely busy year. Paduka puja is at 7am and the small indoor fire ceremony is at 7:30am. We do not have the small fire ceremony 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
In a few days Premanand and I will be flying to Florida to meet Richard Cahall and begin our programs. We are looking forward to joining devotees on both coasts of Florida for chanting, puja, fire ceremonies, satsang, and aaratis. 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 Hereoux'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.
Fire Ceremony and Aarati in Corona, CA on Thursday, January 28 at 11am
Honoring the 50th birthday of our long-time friend and devotee, Randi Rubin, we will have a fire ceremony and aarati at her home on Thursday, January 28 at 11am. Call Randi at 951-808-1010 for directions and more information. All are invited to share this special event with her.
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.
Summer Events: Samaj Weekend July 29 -31, Family Week August 3 - 6
The summer comes fast so just to let you know the above dates for your planning. The dorm for Family Week is already booked but there is still room in the yurt and for camping. You can see by these photos why the children always want to come back year after year. Call us at 719-256-4108 for info or to reserve.
Beautiful New Year's Message from Raghu on Prayer
Nobody spent more time with Babaji then Vishnu Datt Sastri, in Haidakhan and also when Babaji was on a yatra.
There were long stretches where Babaji shared his small kutir (room) with Sastriji in Haidakhan.
Once while sitting with Sastriji I asked him what he was doing all this time in the kutir with Babaji. Sastriji answered that he was mostly reading his scriptures. This is how we knew Sastriji, always focussed on his Durga and Haidakhandeshwari Saptasatis and other scriptures no matter where he was. Day in day out he read the same scriptures again and again. He knew many of them by heart.
I then asked Sastriji what Babaji was doing when you were reading? "He was listening of course" he answered.
Here I broke out in surprise “Everyday listening to your prayers?”. Then Sastriji looked at me in surprise of my question and said; "Of course who do you think is listening to your prayers?"
This was a remarkable moment to get such a confirmation about God listening to our prayers. Being bored of doing, hearing, or seeing the same thing is not a Divine aspect. Dedication and concentration on the Divine is nourishment for the Divine, it’s the Divine recognising itself and doing so it reinforces Divine presence in our lives or perhaps I should say we become more aware of IT !
For our minds however we never really know if someone is listening to our prayers. Depending on our state of doubt, we can spoil a whole lot of pleasure of these prayers. Hope is another thing what can become so fragile in these matters when you contemplate on it. Here, recently another event came along which was for me a beautiful confirmation of the Power of Prayer.
We were so shocked in 2011 when the news broke that our brother Gopal Hari had a tumour discovered in his head. I was with Muniraj at that time and he instantly added a particular prepared coconut to all havans for him there after. This news spread around the world and everywhere prayers were offered for his benefit as he is a well known devotee who offered wonderful bhajans with his family band called GOMA. This tumour did nor disappear but while he was given a short time to live, years passed. He and family members had time to prepare for the inevitable. Gopal Hari himself spent this time mostly in prayer and being absorbed on Babaji and Muniraj and had visions and dreams with them. But then in 2014 it happened Gopal Hari left the body. With loving family and friends present he was cremated in Glastonbury where he lived.
After a month or so Shambo, The son of Gopal Hari & Ambika, met a man somewhere in town who said to him; Hey you probably do not remember me but I am the man who operates the oven at the cremation center. I remember you came last month to us for the cremation of your father. Something particular happened that day that I would like to share with you. I am doing this work for many years and am always at the controls and see all the temperatures of the oven. I have noticed that during cremations the temperature on the oven rises always around 1000 degrees. From many people I do not know any background but with some I do and I have noticed that with some special people the temperature rises higher and with criminals and low lifes temperatures go down. With your fathers cremation the temperatures in the oven were higher than I have ever seen in my life! Once there was a lady who spent her whole life for the church and in prayers, when she died she donated all her possessions to the church…..she was also high…but not like your father. This is a strange but very special sign which I thought you might like to know.
Hearing this from Shambo was again a real eye opener for me on that moment. I was quite aware of all the prayer attention that Gopal Hari was getting from many people around the world. I had spoken to him on Skype and saw in what a particular space he spent his time even up to a few weeks before he died. While he was sick he spent most of his time in complete surrender and in prayer remembering Babaji and Muniraj. As we are all meeting one day with our destiny so did Gopal Hari at a certain point. But here it is clear for me that his prayers and all those prayers done for him had raised energy levels in every cell of his body. Of course, at the same time there was also a lot of pain, suffering and stress with doctors, hospitals, different treatments, and emotional despair with the rest of the family, but still the vibrations of his and others' prayers was apparent.
May these little stories be a comfort or inspiration to the reader that SOMEONE is listening to your prayers even if no signs, visons or answers may arrive. May your hopes turn into a knowing, a trust that your Japa, reading of scriptures and prayers really do work for your spiritual upliftment. Feel supported by the Divine and enjoy a happy 2016.
Bhole Baba ki Jai! Raghu (If you would like to receive more of Raghu's inspirational stories, since he spent many years close to Shri Babaji, Muniraji, and Sastriji, you could email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to his mailing list)
Meet our New Employee, Bill Aldinger
"I have lived in Crestone for the last seven years. My wife and I worked at serveral Bed and Breakfasts around the country before settling here. When we came to Crestone we fell in love with it and decided to live here continuing to help run different Bed and Breakfasts and doing other jobs.
"My beloved wife made her tansistion in May of 2015 nine months after being diagnoised with stage four ovarian cancer, so some deep soul searching found me going to the Ashram. I was asking inside if my time in Crestone was over. As I attended the fire ceremonies at the Ashram I came to know Jonathan, Premanand, and Ramloti and then the biggest miracle happened. I was asked to help at the Ashram, which was an answer to my prayers.
"I am so grateful to the Ashram for giving