Going Deeper

redwood forest‘Going Deeper’ is a focused Meditation Retreat at the Mount Madonna Center that begins for us today. Officially it began on Friday night but we were uprooted from the full experience by full paying customers who registered last minute. I was quite disappointed, but am grateful to at least experience part of the process. What exactly is this retreat, you might ask?

meditationA small group of around 25 participants are set in seclusion for 4 days, embarking on a personal journey that invokes a deeper level of meditation and purification practice. To help calm the mind and allow it to turn inward, the staff incorporate a light diet of pure foods alongside a variety of purification practices, an observance of silence, and a meditative cave-like atmosphere of seclusion, all designed for inner reflection. A number of hours each morning and afternoon will be devoted to prescribed meditations, breathing exercises (Pranayama) and practice of asana in the tradition of Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Baba Hari Dass. Time for reflection and study, spiritual stories, rituals, chanting of mantra and other devotional practices are also part of this special retreat.

Om Namah Shivaya

OmI was curious about the Sanskrit Translation for Hara Hara Mahadev, as it was commonly used around Shivaratri and in literature about the event.

Hara Hara Hara Mahadev Om Namah Shivaya Namah Shivaya

An approximate translation would be: Two of the names of Lord Shiva, which invoke His energy as the great God and destroyer of darkness. Om, I bow to Shiva.

aratiFrom the translation website proz.com: “Ohm Namah Shivaya” is one of the most powerful of Sanskrit mantras. These phrases are designed to create a transformation in consciousness. This mantra begins with the primordial sound ‘Om’, which is a mystic syllable, considered the most sacred of all mantras. “Namah” means “to bow” or “to honour”. In Hinduism, Shiva is that aspect of the Divine which breaks down or brings to a close the creative cycle. The mantra may be experienced as an appeal to God as the destroyer of our illusion and ignorance that stands in the way of perfect union.

From my very basic understanding, ‘Om’ is the sound the universe made when it came into creation. It is the merging of everything into one, an energetic vibration that contains all sounds. The About.com article on ‘Om’ explains that ‘Om’ is actually made up of three syllables: “It is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, au and ma which, when combined together, make the sound Aum or Om.”

When I first started yoga, we would sometimes chant ‘Om’ in our yoga classes. I had no idea as to what the meaning was behind this mystical vibrational incantation was all about. It appeared to be a ritualistic ceremonial offering that everyone seemed to understand but me.

AAaauuuuummmmm …. Do you ever chant om? What does it do for / mean to you?

Maha Shivaratri

Shiva altarShiva NatarajaMaha Shivratri (Sanskrit: महाशिवरात्रि),is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva who represents the Pure Conscious Principle. Shivaratri literally means the great night of Shiva or the night of Shiva; Shiva literally means “auspicious” and as Shankara, he is the giver of happiness and the god who destroys evil. This year, Shivaratri will be celebrated on Sunday, the 19th of February into Monday, the 20th. The program begins on the morning of the 19th with the ritualistic creation of 1008 Shiva Lingams (a Shiva Lingam is symbolic of the creative power of the universe. It denotes the truth that God does not have any definite form). At sunset the community continues their vigil: chanting kirtan to Shiva and performing ritual throughout the night in the Community Building. The closing ritual ends just before dawn.  Offerings are then carried to the Hanuman Temple for Arati, and finally to the Newt Pond where the offerings and participants submerge into the cleansing waters.

Lingam BabajiTraditionally Shivaratri is observed on the lunar fortnight, when the moon is waning, in the western month of February or March. This particular night is considered a time of consecration and dedication, which can result in the mind’s illumination. The festival is principally celebrated by a multitude of offerings to Lord Shiva, with all day fasting by those participating in the ritual circles and an all night long vigil by those who wished to celebrate in Shiva’s name.

Kirtan played the biggest part of the evening with Puja and Yajna ceremonies intermingled between the kirtan marathon sessions. The holy mantra most commonly chanted throughout the evening {with many different artists offering their renditions and blessings} consisted of five-syllables: “Na” “Ma” “Shi” “Vaa” “Ya” (Om NamaH Shivaaya) in praise of Lord Shiva. Nataraja (the king of dancers) is a favourite form adored by dancers and musicians.
An example of one of the evening’s mantras:

Sanskrit Wording:

English Meaning:
At dawn I contemplate on Shiva, the God of gods, the remover of the fear of transmigration, who holds the Gangã in his locks, and rides a bull, the Lord of Ambicã (the Divine Mother), the wielder of the club and spear (in two of his hands) and with the other two offering boon and protection and who is the one infallible remedy for the afflictions of relative existence (Samsãra).

Day 8: Final Day of Cleanse

LingamLingamI’m finding myself in a unique situation right now. I have been successfully diligent and fastidious in determination on and commitment to this 9 day cleanse. Today is Day 8 and tomorrow we are supposed to break our cleanse gently by consuming kitchari with vegetables. However, with this being Shiva Ratri at Mount Madonna, in order to participate in some of the ritual offerings (on a volunteer basis of course), one must fast for at least 18 if not 24 hours before the ceremony. The Lingam-making ceremony starts tomorrow at 9am and carries on for 3 hours, and participation in the making of the Lingams requires a fast to start from 12 noon. Yes, that would be right now! Hmmm, I am not so certain as to whether fasting on my final day of a cleanse is a good idea?

The advice out there is that the best foods to eat after a colon cleanse (which this cleanse literally is) are fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lots of water. It’s strongly advised that one should avoid alcohol, fried foods and processed foods at all costs (yes, that would include sugar and chocolate, oh my!). The rule of thumb is that it’s very wise to be gentle to the body after a colon cleanse, slowly introducing certain foods to the system. Not listening to this advice would send my digestive system and liver in to sensory and task overload. If I were to fast on the final day: who knows what might happen. That info is not provided in the book nor anywhere that I could find on the interweb. However, there are many benefits to fasting, a major one being preventive health care. Personally, I feel magnificent after 8 days! At times, a little bit tired and as the day has progressed, quite hungry. Yet I feel light-hearted, light in body and clear in vision and desire. So in the end, I have decided to break my cleanse early on the final cleanse day with a fast. This gives me an opportunity to participate in the full ceremonial rituals of Shiva Ratri.

Sidenote: As the day progressed, I realized that fasting for 48 hours on liquid alone would be too difficult after a 8 day cleanse. My hunger was overpowering by dinner time, even if I could only eat kitchari. I needed nourishment and sustenance. So I eliminated the idea of the ceremonial making of 1008 Lingams and followed my intuition on what my body needed. Regardless of what opinions I had read or been given, the end result for me lay in the importance of hearing what my body had to tell me. And I am grateful for having that ability to listen to and follow my instinctual body signals. A blessing indeed!

Lingam