Monday, April 10, 2017

Goddess Lakshmi: Good Fortune, Abundance & Beauty

She sits on a lotus flower and holds two others in her hands. The lotus is associated as a symbol of fertility and life. Her other two hands spill gold coins. The elephants she is flanked with also spill coins or water - fertilizing rains. She is often known as the goddess of wealth and good fortune. She is called upon by business owners to rain down wealth and prosperity to them and actually worship their accounting books during one of her festivals.

With all of her symbols it is easy to get wrapped up in the external and material matters that she may represent, but the goddess is much more. She is an aspect of the great mother. And she has the capacity to take over three of the male gods duties: Brahma (creating), Vishnu (Sustaining) and Shiva (destroying) by performing all three functions and thus completely dominating the divine landscape. She is associated with righteous behavior and is said to dwell in those who have clean bodies and are well-dressed. In the Mahabharata she says, "I dwell in truth, gift, vow, austerity, strength, and virtue."

I began on the New Moon in February 26th creating my alter to Lakshmi and chanting to her. Since she is often associated with elephants and sometimes found alongside Ganesha, I began with a mantra  that worked with both of their energies:

"Om Lakshmi Ganapatayai Namaha."
This mantra invokes Lakshmi's energy of prosperity and abundance with Ganesha's removing of obstacles to the flowering of abundance.

In contrast from some days of chanting to Ganesha that felt difficult and daunting, I felt a new and lighter energy in chanting to Lakshmi. She felt light and fun in contrast to Ganesha's focus on removing unwanted energies. She is a bright and beautiful goddess spilling wealth and prosperity! Who wouldn't love that?!

The mantra came easy and I quickly dove through 108 reps each night. Then spent some time contemplating my businesses and my husband's as well, since we were still in the slow and challenging winter months of my husband's landscaping business and literally no income was coming in, I asked him to also chant to Lakshmi and help light her candle and incense from time to time.

On February 16th I headed to Bali on a yoga retreat. I knew that traveling with a full alter would be difficult. So I brought a picture of Lakshmi and my rose quartz mala beads that I used to chant to her each day. My focus began to change to the business of the retreat and making sure that everyone was attended to and that the retreat was managed seamlessly for everyone. I also asked Lakshmi to provide support for both my partner's business and mine while we were away in Bali. Each day in Bali (usually upon waking), I would chant to her and take a few moments of prayer before heading out for our morning coconut water and yoga. I changed the mantra to something even simpler and more direct: "Om Shreem Maha Lakshmyai Namaha."

The retreat went really well and Lakshmi was certainly there to support us before, during and after our journey to Bali. The day before we left Bali, I dedicated a yoga class to Lakshmi and created an alter to her for everyone to share. We talked about abundance and beauty and all that Lakshmi offers. It was a beautiful way to end the retreat by sharing her with the others after having dedicated time to her personally each day.

When I returned home, I was quite tired from travel. I think I missed chanting one day to her. But my husband told me that while I was gone he did light the candle most evenings that I had on the Lakshmi alter at home. His businesses were starting to get busy, which I like to think is a result of his energy to Lakshmi.

My plan was to continue chanting to Lakshmi until April 9th, which was last night. And I did just that. I finished up my last chant and day of honoring Lakshmi by chanting several different mantras 108 times:

"Om Shreem Shreeyai Namaha."

"Om Shreem Shreem Shreem Mahaa Lakshmyai Namaha."

"Om Hreem Shreem Lakshmibhyo Namaha."

Shreem and Hreem are both seed-sounds. Hreem is the seed-sound adding Divine attraction and Shreem is the seed-sound to increase creative abundant energy within us. I burned quite a bit of Lakshmi incense yesterday, and began to take down her alter to prepare for Durga today.

One thing that began to change in my intentions somewhere during Bali, was to bring in the aspect of beauty to my prayers and devotional work. I'm not sure that I have given this aspect much focus in recent years, and it has become apparent to me that to honor the Goddess in all her forms, I need to honor her life-force and beauty. And also to honor this aspect within myself. I think that because our society has warped the concept of beauty so much that I actually pulled away from wanting to connect to it for some time. But I realize the significance of this and how it is something to cultivate, and I look to Lakshmi in her beautiful pink robes and surrounded by pretty lotus flowers for this guidance.

My 40 days of chanting to Lakshmi was, "easy-breezy." She was a light and fun goddess, and a welcomed change to the powers of Ganesha. Now, as I move into the power of Ma Durga for the next 40 days, I know that the energy will once again shift, and possibly take me into deeper levels of myself. What will show up? That is the amazing opportunities of never knows at the onset, but always uncovers something deep and lasting in the end.

Om Shanti.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What does the Snail say?

I just returned from a fabulous yoga retreat in Bali, Indonesia that I co-hosted with my friend and business partner, Victoria Purcell-Goodwin. We were lucky to have 7 beautiful people traveling with us through Bali on a "Bali Blessed!" mindful travel tour. Although this was a working trip, I was much looking forward to getting away. My last trip away was our yoga retreat to Peru in September - also a working trip. And although I am used to taking a personal trip in January, I had decided to not travel again since we had a few business trips coming up and I was already planning to be away from the studio for too many weeks and I had a lot of training and other obligations at work. Of course, December 1st I had a car accident that landed me with a concussion that I continued to work through up until leaving for Bali, so that would have put a damper on any travel plans that I had made anyway. I was sincerely looking forward to Bali, even though I was slightly concerned about how the traveling would affect my head. But I have to say, other than acclimating the first week to the daily schedule - of which I was NOT ready for - and thus having some minor headaches each evening, I was feeling pretty good.

But the point I want to make regarding this entire situation is that I have had continued messages to "SLOW DOWN" since the onset of my accident. And in Bali I received a few more...

About the second day, I was headed from a morning smoothie up to my room and then to the yoga room for our daily practice. Everyone else had to traversed the same steps as I through the lush landscape and multiple steps in our health resort. And although everyone proceed the same way as me - either just before or just after I did - I was the only one to see a magnificent snail right in the middle of some steps.

Here is the big guy...
Of course I knew that the snail was a messenger just for me. And I knew what the continued message was: "SLOW DOWN." However, since we were on a working yoga retreat, slowing down more than what was already scheduled was not particularly an option...

We moved through our retreat beautifully. Many days were busier than anticipated, but after the first week we anchored into our second home along the beach and the schedule changed a bit to reflect some more open time. I was happy to not have any headaches that entire second week. And then the evening before we were to return home, I was headed back to my room and guess who I found on the step going into my room? Yes, another large snail. Again, nobody else was around and I decided to move him off the step so that Victoria didn't accidentally step on him on her way back to the room later on.

So, I was the only one to see both of these big, beautiful snails on our trip. Because the messenger was only for me. And I will repeat the message: "SLOW DOWN." And I only repeat it because I need to hear it again.

I often do feel like I awake daily and am off to the races. There is always so much to do and whenever I have free time, I tend to fill it with any of the multiple activities that I could do - be it work or pleasure. I firmly believe that the Universe has been sending me messengers in all kinds of ways to remind me to slow down and to choose my activities wisely with mindfulness and purposeful intentions. And although I would love to be able to do it all, the reality is that I shouldn't be. The reality is that I should be resting more and choosing how to use my time more wisely. 

And so that is what I am choosing to now do.

I realized even before Bali that something had to give. I wrote down about 13 different things on individual pieces of paper and arranged them in a circle. They were like spokes on a wheel. As I looked at each one I asked myself which ones were non-negotiable, which ones were possibilities, which ones I really wanted to tackle, and which ones could go. But I just couldn't determine the true and right answer. So, I decided to head to Bali and hope of some answers...

...enter the snail...

Here is little more about Snail Animal Totem Medicine from the website

"Snail is letting you know that you need to slow down! What’s the big hurry? You have been spending so much time focusing on your goals that you have been missing something that is right in front of you right now.  Let go for a moment so that you will be able to see it.
Alternatively, this mollusk is letting you know that any pace is a good pace and sometimes what seems like forever is just a small moment of time. Release your beliefs of not getting things done on time. Trust your process and simply stay present and chug along. No sense in causing yourself any more stress.
Snail is also letting you know that your time needs to be used wisely. However, you also have to realize that you have time for everything. Divide your priorities and set up block of time in each day so that there is steady progress in all of your projects.  The whole process is a simple exercise in time management. Stay in the present and all things will be accomplished."

Patience has never been my strong spot. I need learn to embrace it. I have created too much stress in my life doing what I love. That's never good. Last year I downsized the studio and moved it to create less stress, and that was a great move. But I still need to make changes in my life. This means saying "No" more than I would like to and not getting involved in all of the business opportunities that I could or want to do or reprioritize them to spread them out a little more. 
I also need to refocus on some things that I have not focused on and that are really important to me and make sure that I am giving a little time and energy to them on a regular basis instead of completely foregoing them in order to do more of my day-to-day activities. I mean, is it really important to do laundry or wash dishes? I think not! In fact, my resting more and not doing everything has empowered my husband to take on more things at home, so that's a win-win!
Life is a continued work in progress, isn't it? The journey never really ends. I am not unlike anyone else - we are all just doing our best and trying to figure it all out. Managing my time and creating more pockets of rest and rejuvenation are key to me moving forward this year. Selecting which activities are the right ones to engage in and how to spend my time is of particular importance to me because the older I get the more I realize how previous that time really is.
It never ceases to amaze me how messages come to us in our life. First the deer offered me a reminder of being gentle and now the snail comes to remind me to slow down. The message is loud and clear and in the same vein. And I am listening. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April 2017 Theme: DO!

There is a famous zen saying, "Don't just do something, sit there." In light of this month's theme "DO," this sounds a little confusing, at first. But when you break it apart and realize that all actions should be mindful and done for the right reasons, then this month's mantra sounds more yogic than you may have first thought.

Prayer is important. Right intention is important. Planting the energy of positivity is ultra-important. One can pray and plant and think day all day long, but at some point, you need to get off your butt and DO something too. This is "Right Action" or Karma Yoga. It is one of the main lessons of the "Bhagavad Gita" (Song of God) and the an important one to infuse into your life. We all lead busy lives and DO a lot, don't we? But is every action mindful and just? Does every action serve a higher purpose? 

What if it did?

What if every action you took this month served a higher purpose or divine energy? What if every action you did for helping someone else or going towards a good and noble cause? Or what if you just did it for God?
These are interesting times that we live in. It is easy to judge and spout off on social media. But if you really believe in something good, then why not DO something about it? But remember to be mindful and to come from a place of right action. 

Hmm, maybe for April we should get back to reading our Bhagavad Gita for inspiration on this path!
In Love & Light,
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff

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I am a doer. I once read a quote: "If you want something done, give it to a busy person to do." And I was honored to be that busy person. In corporate I was involved in every committee that I could be and in my personal life I often am the one arranging events and coordinating friendly gatherings. But you know what? All that doing can be exhausting! Then I had my wake up call with my concussion, and I realized that doing had to become a scarce activity and I embraced rest. But to be well-balanced, one has to be able to rest and have energy for when it is time to act. And actions should be all done in a positive way. 

Living mindfully means going slow. This is also a new concept for my "full speed ahead" attitude. But I have found that slowing down and acting mindfully has deepened what I do and made my actions more meaningful, because I only have time for the ones that are really important, and I have been able to release the ones that were just "busy-ness." 

The practice of Karma Yoga is the yoga of action. In its simplest form: you reap what you sow. I have been working on this a lot lately - even going to the level of my thoughts because thoughts are the energy behind actions. And when I think about something a lot, I tend to eventually do something and act on it. So I want to make sure that I'm thinking the right way too!

I no longer wish to be a busy person. I want a life that is full and balanced. Sometimes this may require me to be a little busy. But my intention is to do what I am meant to do, and that means getting back to some things that have been on the back burning for a long time too. So I've began to write again. I am in the process of writing two books - both of which I am very passionate about. Maybe you didn't know I was a writer, but when I think about myself and what I am, that is always what I think of first, and yet, I have given it the last bit of time.  Not any more. I have vowed to make writing an important and regular part of my life. 

What do you want to do? What does your soul cry out for? Maybe its time to stop thinking about it, make the time, and DO IT! Won't you join me?

In Love & Light.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center