Birthdays – The Indian Ways of An Uplifting Celebration

Hari Om! 🙂 My heartfelt gratitude for all the wishes and blessings on this beautiful day. Hope you like this special blog! 😀

Birthdays bring with them excitement, love and happiness. 🙂 

How do we generally celebrate our birthday? By cutting a cake, celebrating with friends and family or going out for dinner and partying, right? 

If this is what a birthday celebration means to you, maybe that is fine. 

But today, we are going to look at a subtler and more beautiful perspective of celebrating this special day – or should I say days? 

Because as per the Indian tradition or the lunar calendar, we celebrate our birthday on what is called the “Janma Tithi”, where the constellations of the astronomical bodies are similar to what it was during the time of our birth. 

Earlier I personally had zero belief in the “Tithi or Nakshatram(Star)” birthday as we call it – simply because I never understood this tradition. 

In 2019 however, I could sense a deep spiritual happiness the moment I woke up on the day of my star birthday, hence I spent time reading about it. I’ll simplify that bit of information here. 

The vibrations present in the surroundings on the Tithi are most supportive for true inner growth – because they match the vibrations we were actually born with, which make up our subtle body. 

Thus the ancient seers came up with celebration rituals that can enhance the person’s capacity to absorb these spiritual vibrations around him and evolve in all the aspects – spiritual, mental and emotional.

These celebrations are inherently Sattvic or purifying in nature. They enhance the qualities of purity and awareness in us and strengthen the vibrations of the subtle body. 

Whether you celebrate the date of birth or the Tithi or you actually choose to do both like I do – do it mindfully, integrating the best of Indian cultural practices on both days. Thus, both the special days can be greatly elevating. 

How? Let’s see! 

Abhayangasnan – Ah, how does it sound to begin the day early with a calming ritual of a gentle oil massage followed by a warm water bath? This Ayurvedic ritual helps wash away stress, fatigue and dead skin cells, is known to increase circulation to the nerve endings and levels mental alertness, amongst many other proven benefits. It is a complete nourishment for the physiological and psychological systems of the being.

Holistic Well-being – Remember how the mind automatically calms down due to divine vibrations when Arati is performed at home or at a temple? Similarly, here the individual sits near the altar at home and the elder performs the ritual of Aukshan – where subtler frequencies are activated by a lit lamp is waved in a circular motion in front of the person with a prayer for his/her well-being. It is completed by sprinkling unbroken grains of rice (Akshata) on the child’s head. 

Sattvic Inspirations – In the earlier days, parents used to invite evolved beings like the Rishis and saints to bless the child for spiritual and material growth. Today, such a blessing is rare. If you receive it, cherish it with all your heart! Visiting the temple apart from engaging in listening to and reading greatly inspiring material and holding stimulating discussions with a like-minded person on this day, can be highly elevating.

The Birthday – By S.Aravind Raghavan (AKA Aravind Bhaiya! 🙂 )

Cakes Delight – This is something all of us love! But perhaps we can avoid blowing a candle off because it corresponds to extinguishing light. Instead say a simple heartfelt prayer and then cut the cake. That will enhance the positivity of the ritual! 

Light Lamps – What better than lighting colourful lamps and making it a mini-Diwali celebration? Light lamps of knowledge, love, happiness and well-being. And radiate light to all! 

Celebrations with Family – Again, an aspect all of us love. Birthdays are beautiful occasions for family get-togethers too. 

And a perfect day to seek the blessings of the parents, grandparents and other elders you revere! For it is said that the feet of an elder stands for the values he has lived through an entire lifetime.  

Give Gifts – Eh? Birthdays are all about receiving gifts right? Absolutely! But don’t forget you too were gifted to the world on this day. Gifts when given become more special. Make a gift of all the love you have to the world around. Give a donation, visit an orphanage, teach a child, grow plants, feed animals – or choose anything else! 

Make this day and life special for everyone around. 

Reflections and Growth – As we have already seen, this is a day with greater spiritual significance than we realize. This is when you can take time off, and reflect upon the year that has gone by. Where we fell and grew, the achievements and improvements to be made – this is a good day to see where you are and where you want to be in all aspects.  

Offering Gratitude – Finally offer heartfelt gratitude to Bhagavan for all the hits and misses,the sorrows and joy and for the beautiful life and birthday celebrations, for just about everything!

Thus, a birthday celebration in Bharat’s advanced culture, is more like a spiritual fest of inner growth, seva and gratitude! It is truly a day for the seeker to be born again with fresh vigour. 

Incidentally both 2020 and 2019 were super special for me, because I could include most of these aspects in the celebrations on both days! The Star birthday especially in 2019 was truly special because I discovered an Ayyappa temple somewhere in a corner of Jaipur. It was indescribable for I also share my Nakshathram with Him. Let’s see what this year’s star birthday brings! 😀

Hope you like this blog and include some of the aspects mentioned in your celebrations too! And don’t forget to ask your elders when your Tithi or Star birthday is. 🙂 

Until Then,

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. 🙂

Sadhana – Uplifting the Mind

Hello! Welcome back to the voyage inward. 🙂 Thank You so much for the wonderful response on Towards True Mental Well-Being! It truly means a lot. 😀

Last Sunday, I had blogged about how the mental health of every individual needs to be addressed with a holistic understanding. 

By Sadhana we give the mind healthy and favourable surroundings, enough nutrition, restful repose, a direction etc. It must revive and grow by itself

Swami Chinmayananda

Today I will be writing about the practices – which we call Sadhanas on the spiritual path – that have helped my mind tremendously. Spirituality is a science that addresses life as a whole – the mental, physical and subtler aspects that we may not be aware of now. Thus, its practices has a deeper, profound healing effect on the mind and body. 

I am breaking this blog into two parts, the second one will be posted next Sunday. What I will be writing about is a very basic introduction because each of these Sadhanas need in-depth examining and experiential understanding too. 

  1. Japa – A powerful practice probably found in all major world religions – Japa is traditionally performed in the beginning with the help of Tulsi mala/Rudraksha mala of 108 beads. You begin by chanting out aloud the sacred mantras of your favourite deity (Ishta Devata – for example Om Namah Shivaya) or the Savitur Gayatri Mantra preferably in the morning hours. As your mind becomes more and more silent – this chanting will become a mere murmur within. It is a sadhana which builds our concentration and gain access to greater potential buried in the mind.

2. Yogasana – I mention Yogasana – because Yoga by itself has a multitude of definitions in different contexts. But here it would mean integrating the body and the mind with breath awareness and a set of practises called Asanas. Each Asana works on parts of the body, enhances one’s awareness and alertness and helps quieten the mind – thereby preparing it for higher flights into meditation. You may check out my trainer’s profile here (she is AMAZING!) and contact her if you have queries. 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Health—Wellness-Website/Yogatainment-612506432515155/ 

3. Meditation – One point that I have come to realise is that meditation begins as a practise we perform with closed eyes and slowly becomes a state of being. From 5 minutes of sitting straight, fidgeting and watching our thoughts to going deeper and deeper – we finally reach a calm state that penetrates into what we do with our eyes open too. 

While there are guided meditations on YouTube and Apps that you can check out – what has worked best for me so far is a slow chanting of Om.

4. Arpana Buddhi – This translates to maintaining a mindset of offering all that you do at a Higher Altar. This altar could be Bhagawan, Guru, the nation, your parents, your goals, etc. In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna asks Arjuna to surrender all his actions and thoughts at His Feet. When we bring this sadhana in our day to day life – the mind stops pondering over the fruits of its actions and loses all attachment with it. While performing the action itself, there is no anxiety for we are completely immersed in the present while being detached from the outcome. The mind is gradually lifted up into serene channels of inspiration. 

Even though something as simple as a walk, an affirmation or even music can help our mind – I wanted to blog about these Sadhanas which have helped me at levels – more profound than I can fathom. I believe they are long-term practises which while requiring tremendous patience and consistency – transform us from within and lift our minds to quieter channels. 

Next week, we’ll look at 5 more practises – and in the future examine these in-depth too.

Until then, please feel free to connect with me if you have questions on lakshstar97@gmail.com. I am a novice too – trying to blog, express and share so that all of us can grow together! 🙂

From now on, I’ll try to ensure that every blog leaves you with a simple resource you can use to uplift yourselves.

As we are in the Shravan month which is dedicated to worship of Lord Shiva – click here for a super-calming Mantra that will leave you feeling refreshed at any point in the day. 😀

See you Next Sunday! 😀

Love and Om,

Lakshmi. 

Towards True Mental Well-Being

Hellooo! 🙂 Now this marks a humble new beginning in the journey of creating content from the heart with two goals – to share and to enhance our growth. Do join me on this quest, I promise we will shine together! 🙂

Today as I woke up in the morning – a thought struck me. What is mental health? Do we actually understand what it means? 

We watch awareness campaigns rise for depression and mental well-being when someone close to us struggles or someone who has achieved a considerable amount of what is regarded as success also fights hard battles inside his/her mind. 

But, is mental health only about creating awareness around Depression, Anxiety or Suicide? No doubt, it is an extremely vital part. Tell me, do we understand physical health merely as being aware of various illnesses and the absence of those? Or is it much more holistic? 

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as, “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively or fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” 

Mental health is more than mental disorders. Treatment is only a part of the whole. The focal point is enabling a person to function at his optimum mental capacity and help him discover that mental fortitude which can stand by him in times of challenges. Mental health is as much about being at peace as it is about having the strength to face life’s struggles. 

We often notice that maintaining physical fitness comes quite naturally to us. While the mind does benefit in this process – why do we not recognize that the mind is far subtler and needs more care and understanding? The mind and body go hand in hand. What affects the mind, affects the body and vice versa. You can’t neglect either – for they are sacred vehicles we are blessed with. 

mental health - as your mind so your vision

In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda says, “Mind is man. As the mind, so is the individual. If the mind is disturbed, the individual is disturbed. If the mind is good, the individual is good.” 

He explains the working of the Objective Mind (the Manas in Sanskrit) as that which faces the world outside and the Subjective Mind (the Buddhi in Sanskrit) as that which faces within and reacts to this stimuli received from outside. 

“That individual is whole and healthy in whom the objective and subjective aspects of the mind work in unison, and in moments of doubt, the Objective Mind readily comes under the disciplining influence of the Subjective Mind.” he elaborates. 

However, in the majority of us this is split and does not work in unison many times – due to our own delusory attachments and desires – which leads to inner confusion. 

To do each day what it takes to bring these two aspects together and minimize that layer of false notions will bring in mental health into our daily lives. 

I’ll talk in my next blog on 26th July 2020, about those practises which have been working well for me, in my quest. 

Until then, Keep Smiling and Shining!

Do click Like, Follow and leave your comments – cherish this dream with me! 😀

Love and Om,

Lakshmi.

A Day With Lord Ayyappa- Chapter 5: Timeless Moments

As she dusted her hands, she heard a grumbling sound. When she turned to investigate the cause of that sound, she found Shabareesh grinning sheepishly.
“Hungry!”
“What? You just had so much chaat!” she laughed much to his exasperation.
“Huh! So what? That was a while ago. After that, you made me run around and build this castle on top of that. So..” he shrugged, quite proud of his answer.
“Oh really?” Karthika smiled sweetly making him gulp. The next minute all the sand covering her hands were on his head!
“What the..” his jaws dropped open as he surveyed himself while Karthika laughed away to glory.
That was it. The next moment her clothes were splattered with more sand.
She glared at him but Shabareesh smirked widely, his eyebrows jiggling in a teasing expression. The duo stared at each other for a second. The next second they broke into laughter.


“We look like drenched monkeys!” Karthika exclaimed struggling to catch her breath.
“Well I always thought you were a cute little monkey!” he chuckled.
“Hawww! I am not talking to you.” Karthika stalked off.
“Hey! You only keep sending that monkey on WhatsApp!” he remarked falling in step with her.
“Shabareesh I never expected you to be such a tease!” she huffed.
“Oh come on that’s not just your job, I am more talented. And by the way, I am everything yet nothing. You only need to REALIZE.” he winked mysteriously and went ahead, leaving Karthika to her thoughts.

On their way home, she was lost in him. The flowers he touched lightly, bloomed with life, a smile always played on his lips. The smile that had never left her heart since the day had begun.
The driver of the rickshaw they rode back home was delighted at his company.

“Can I sing for you later?” she asked softly.
He had been busying caressing the tiny head of a myna that was perched on his shoulder as they walked to her home. Her request made him grin wide.
“Sureee! I am waiting.” His eyes shone with excitement.

Her heart almost swelled with happiness at that love in his eyes. On entering her home though her face suddenly fell.

“What happened ma?” he asked noticing her crestfallen expression.

“There is nothing at home to eat. And you’re hungry!” she whispered almost in tears.

“Hey! Don’t sound so sad. Give me anything with all the love in your heart, even if it is a simple fruit. That’s more than enough to satisfy me.” he said holding her by her shoulders gently.

“But I wanted to prepare so much for you!” Karthika cried.

“Remember, Sudama’s handful of puffed rice made Lord Krishna happier than the largest dinner banquet. Sabari Maata’s pure love, overflowing into those half-eaten fruits brought tears to Sri Rama’s eyes. Give me whatever your heart wills and time allows.” He wiped away her tears, reminding her of the stories of the Lord’s greatest devotees

Karthika managed a small smile and quickly went to the kitchen. With whatever little was available in the house, she began preparing a meal while Shabareesh stood by, observing her. No words were spoken. He could see how she poured all her concentration and devotion into the food that she was making. As for her, she had completely dissolved into the act of cooking, into the very love that was the key ingredient of her preparation!

After an hour, he sat down famished and eager while she served the dishes lovingly on a silver plate that she used to first serve food for the Lord. Today however she was mysteriously directed to serve Shabareesh. By now, her intellect had completely given up reasoning. It had accepted that whatever was happening was way beyond its comprehension.

“Ahh! What a lovely lunch and my favourite Chadachadayam [ I know it is difficult to pronounce! 😛 Made of jaggery, this variety of kheer is traditionally offered at Lord Ayyappa’s Pujas. It is considered to be his favourite. 🙂 ]

He chanted his prayer and dug into the simple yet delicious spread.

“Wowww!” he exclaimed in amazement. As he ate, very evidently enjoying the meal, Karthika was unable to contain her bubbling joy within herself. Tears of happiness made their way down her eyes. He glanced at her, blinking in unsaid assurance, a soulful smile playing on his lips.

“Get another plate.” He said.

“Why?” came the immediate reply.

“For once listen to me and get a plate!” he teased.

She frowned and followed his orders. What happened next stunned her out of her wits. Shabareesh served the food onto the plate, that silent smile of infinite love never leaving his lips. He mixed the rice with the sambar well, just as he loved it, made a cute little ball of the morsel and stretched his hand to feed her.

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that her heart strained against her chest wanting to leap out in sheer bliss as he fed her. She shivered, wondering if each moment today was real or a beautiful dream? His serene smile, ancient eyes, unconditional love and eternal wisdom – it felt as if the Lord Himself was sitting there and feeding her. The moment felt timeless, as if she wasn’t herself anymore. As if she and Shabareesh were One, like the oneness a devotee revels in with her Lord.

To Be Continued…

A Day with Lord Ayyappa

Hari Om! This story is inspired by an experience at a Global Youth Camp I had attended last year. In one of the activities we had to visualize a day with our favorite deity or Ishta Devata as it is known in Sanskrit. The experience left a deep imprint on my heart leading to this tale.

It will be divided in approximately 5-6 parts, I’ll be updating every Tuesday and Saturday! Do read, enjoy and let me know your feedback!

Lord Ayyappa

CHAPTER 1

Karthika brushed aside her thoughts as she walked her way through the famed Mumbai traffic to her office. While the traffic of this city was enough to break the resolve of the most patient person on earth, she endeavored to push her irritation aside and look around her. She smiled at the colourful bunch of flowers on the trees, the bright blue endless sky giving her a sense of freedom. She greeted the watchmen, the helpers and everyone else with a bright smile as she entered her serene work premises.


That was just who she was. A lively 21-year old with a pure childlike heart that always shone bright even in the face of difficulties.
As she sat at her desk, her eyes lit up when she found a pretty hibiscus flower at the feet of the tiny golden idol of the Lord who ruled her heart- Lord Ayyappa.
“Acha laga na beta?” the loving grandfather-like figure who took care of their smallest needs at office asked her.
Karthika immediately knew it was he who had taken those efforts to get the flowers for her Ayyappa.
“Thank You Kaka!” she grinned and thanked him softly as he laughed, patted her shoulder and left.


Turning back she stared at His idol. The Lord of her heart and soul, the reason for her existence, whose name never left her lips, who invoked nothing but pure and intense devotion from the innermost recesses of her Being- Lord Ayyappa was her Everything!
With that the lingering thought that had been troubling her since a while came back to life. “What if I get a day to spend with Ayyappa? What would it be like?” she wondered, her gaze fixed on the idol on front of her, as if asking Him to actually fulfill her wish!


She remained lost in these thoughts as the day passed by before Veda, her boss who was also like a mother and confidante to Karthika, finally asked her, “What’s wrong? You seem lost today.”
“It’s all the camp’s fault.” Karthika mumbled.
“What?” Veda was confused.


“I mean, they did this one activity there and I am stuck on it since I have returned. And it is only getting intense with each passing day.” she replied irritated, referring back to a  spiritual camp for the youth that she had attended two months ago.
“Which activity my dear?” Veda questioned gently.
“The one where we had to visualize a day with our favorite God, His form that we love and adore the most! And I literally painted a whole picture in my head of how my day with Ayyappa would be. It was so beautiful. Like ultimate bliss.” Karthika said wistfully, a beautiful smile adoring her lips and an intense longing in her eyes which reflected the innocent yet powerful devotion she held in her soul.

Veda smiled knowingly and shook her head, for she never understood what to do with this girl. She had a way of getting lost in her own maze and coming out of it the next moment as well.
“Why are you smiling Ma’am? I feel so distressed. I just don’t know what to think and feel!” Karthika said dejectedly.

Veda reached out and kept a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Never lose hope. Put your thoughts aside. When you stop thinking and simply believe with all your heart in your own pure Bhakti, you never know what can happen!” Veda winked and walked away, leaving a completely perplexed Karthika behind.


Late in the evening when she returned home after a tiring yet productive day, her mind relaxed as she went about her night routine with her lips constantly singing beautiful bhajans of the Lord. She did it unconsciously, as if it was the most natural thing to her. Sliding into bed, she said her prayers of gratitude and drifted off to what she didn’t know would be quite an eventful sleep.

………….

At around 3:00 A.M. Karthika’s land of dreams was invaded by a soothing light that felt extremely familiar, One that didn’t need anything to illumine it. That Self-Illumining Light illumined everything around as she looked on in awe. Suddenly she heard a growl on her left side. She looked in that direction only to find a majestic tiger inching towards her, his gaze fixed on her.


Strangely she didn’t feel afraid. On the contrary she found herself walking towards him and putting her arms around his neck, as if he weren’t a ferocious carnivore but a pet dog! He enjoyed that for a second before walking ahead leaving her staring at him. Almost as if he could sense her absence, he glanced back with his silent gaze asking her to follow him. The animal that all feared led the way for her. She couldn’t understand what was happening nor could she think about it. She felt blissful, that was all she knew.


A heightened sense of self-awareness enveloped her as the tiger led her finally reaching an ancient temple of stone with the inner sanctum made of glowing gold. Nestled in that inner sanctum with the decorated 18 steps leading up to Him, was the Lord of Her Heart- Lord Ayyappa, smiling in all His infinite beauty and glory.
“Ayyappa” she whispered with reverence.
As her gaze moved away from the idol, she found the tiger sitting right in front of the sanctum in complete surrender, beside a human figure. Karthika frowned. His build seemed highly familiar. He seemed to be someone she held close to not just her heart, but her soul.


Although she yearned to move forward and find out what on earth was going on, her feet refused to budge. She gawked as the familiar figure with the tiger walked and simply disappeared into the idol!
Tears flowed down her cheeks unknowingly, she couldn’t understand what kind of emotions she felt, but one was highly prominent: Devotion.


At this moment, Karthika’s dream broke waking her up with a start.
“Ayyappa!” she whispered again, in shock. Touching her face she could feel tears on her cheeks. Thoughts ran through her mind like a mad horse on loose.
“What was that dream all about? Who was that person? What is happening? Ayyappa?!”

To Be Continued…