The Magic of the Gayatri Mantra

Today at the Sai Centre, we sang the Gayatri Mantra, which is an ancient Sanskrit hymn that dates back thousands of years. It originates from the Rig Veda, a sacred text in Hinduism, and is dedicated to the Savitr, the Sun god. According to Hindu mythology, this prayer was said to be given to the sage Vishwamitra as a gift for his years of dedication and penance. The lyrics are as follows:

Om Bhur Bhuva Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonah Prachodayaat

There are many translations of the mantra, some that are line by line and word by word, and others that are more interpretative. Some of the ones that resonate with me are:

“We meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe; may He enlighten our minds.”  — Swami Vivekananda

“We meditate on the effulgent glory of the Divine Light; may it inspire our understanding.” — S. Radhakrishna

“Oh Creator of the Universe! We meditate upon thy supreme splendor. May thy radiant power illuminate our intellects, destroy our sins, and guide us in the right direction!” — Unknown

My Mom and I chant the gayatri mantra nine times in a row at 12 noon every weekday. It’s an opportunity for us to stop what we are doing, join forces, and align ourselves with cosmic energy (at least that’s what I think we’re doing!). It definitely reminds me of God and the universe and ancient wisdom, and returning back to my true self. With all the different mantras available, having discipline and establishing a routine are very important.

Speaking of universal energy – the craziest thing just happened. As I am in the middle of writing this post, I received a text message from my friend Gayathri (who I haven’t spoken to in months) saying Happy New Year and that she is happy to see my different profile pics on Whatsapp. Is that not a crazy coincidence?! She is also a Sai devotee, and a vibrionics practitioner (but that is a story for another day). The universe works in mysterious ways sometimes – but then again, maybe that’s just how life goes when you are blessed.

I Am

I am beautiful
I am worthy
I am raw and wild and untamed
I am intelligent and rational, spiritual and intuitive
I am dignified, yet when it comes to love
willing to throw it all out the window.

I am love incarnate.
I am submissive, yet defiant;
sensitive, yet callous –
I long to experience the joys of love and union,
yet value my independence above all.

I am WOMAN.
I have eyes that can see through the depths of your being,
hair that falls graciously beyond my shoulders,
hips that sway to the rhythms of the earth.
I am everything you think I am and more,
yet can be magnificently misunderstood.

I am logical, yet open to forces much greater than me
I am powerful, yet acknowledge that the black hole of doubt
can drain me of my strength.
I am an artist, seeking his muse.

I am everything at once, yet deep down I know that I am nothing.
I am spirit and soul, earth and water.
I am never-ending….

***

“I AM” is the strongest creative statement in the universe. The universe responds to this as would ‘a genie in a bottle’ – it knows no other way to behave. My friend Melinda once asked me to summarize what I thought about this statement and this is what I said:

I always say that “I AM” is the most powerful statement in the universe. It has the power to change your body and mind, which can be rewired simply by repeating this basic mantra. It can be as straightforward as “I am love, I am light”, or as intricate as “I am the being that recognizes the God in you.” The repetition is important, especially in times of doubt and when you don’t believe what you are saying is true.

This is the passage from Conversations with God that first introduced me to its power:

“When  your  thoughts  are  clear  and  steadfast,  begin  to  speak  them  as  truths. Say  them out loud. Use the great command that calls forth creative power: I am. Make Iam statements to others. “I am” is the strongest creative statement in the universe.  Whatever you think, whatever you say, after the words “I am” sets into motion those  experiences, calls them forth, brings them to you. There is no other way the universe knows how to work. There is no other route it  knows to take. The universe responds to “I am” as would a genie in a bottle.”

Another cool fact about “I AM” is that the reverberation it makes in your body has a realigning effect. In every enlightened being, and in every major religion, you will find the sound “I AM” – in Hinduism it’s AUM, in Islam it’s Ameen, and in Christianity Amen. They all derive from the same universal source/sound, and are one and the same. Cool huh?

Here is a recording of me saying “AUM Shanti” – have a listen and pay attention to how you feel when hearing it. Then when you have a moment on your own, take a deep breath in, and on the exhale, let out a long “AUM”. There are lots of different opinions on how to say it properly, but I just say it the way that feels right to me.

As you go about your day, keep this AUM sound with you, and let it lead you to the place of peace within yourself.

May We All Be Flutes

This morning I went to the Ottawa Sai Centre with my parents. The Sai Centre is a spiritual centre that is devoted to the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, a messenger of God, who lived in India for all his life and passed away a few years ago at age 85.  I love going there because there is so much devotion, love, and joy – the people there are committed to serving others and are always so friendly and helpful.

On Sundays my Mom teaches a class for special needs students, and I usually play the role of her assistant. We prepare crafts for the kids and sing with them – my Mom has a song called “Start the Day With Love” that the kids absolutely adore.

One of my favourite parts about being there is taking a tea break, and chatting with people and hearing what’s going on in their lives. Babies on the way, sharing spiritual lessons, talking about work (or in my case the hunt for work!), and being around the adorable kids that attend the classes.

My Mom, Dad, and I had decided that we were going to leave after three bhajans, but then someone began to sing a beautiful English bhajan, so we changed our minds and decided to stay. The song is called “May We All Be Flutes.” Kind of reminds me of my post from way back when, that I wrote around the time when I first started blogging and sharing with my friends and family. Here are the words from the song today:

Let Us Be Your Melody, We’ll Sing at Your Command
Krishna’s Flute We’ll Be, We’ll Sing His Melody
When Desire’s Gone We Will Finally Sing His Song
Song of Love, Song of Truth, Let the Melody Flow Through
Song of Love, Song of Truth, May Our Lives Be One with You

Krishna, the blue God, is known for his enchanting flute playing. His flute entrances the gopis (cowgirls) in Vrindavan, and especially Radha, who forgets even her name when she hears him play. I love the words of this song – it’s a reminder that each of us has a beautiful melody inside of us, and that the vibration of these words on your lips has a purifying effect.

After the bhajan we stopped to see the Christmas display. A volunteer from the Centre had assembled it that morning, and it was a sight to behold!! All the kids loved it, and the adults as well.

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Christmas Display at the Ottawa Sai Centre

Overall a wonderful Sunday morning. Hope you all had a great Sunday too!

First You Relax Your Toes…

I’m so excited! My all-time favourite meditation teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn, is coming to Ottawa on Sep 21 to lead a mass meditation on Parliament Hill in honour of the UN International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”). This year’s theme is TOGETHER and is focused on showing support for refugees and migrants, and to stand up to discrimination and xenophobia.

I was first introduced to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s meditation years ago, when I took the Mindfulness Meditation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course at the Toronto Western Hospital. Jon Kabat-Zinn helps his patients to stay present and pay attention to their thoughts and emotions without judgment. This can be especially challenging if you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or chronic pain. I remember doing the “raisin meditation”, where we were each given a raisin and asked to pay close attention to it, from how it felt in our hands to how it looked to how it felt inside our mouths (slowly experiencing the burst of flavour on our tongues).

Fast forward five years, and I still rely on his “body scan” meditation to help me stay grounded and to bring my awareness to my body, where I can deeply feel any suppressed emotions. We often think that meditation is only useful when going through hard times, but I find that it is also extremely useful during times of joy, to bring some calmness to our over-excited minds. When I hear his voice, I instantly feel at home – it is a voice I’ve come to trust completely.

When I do the body scan, I wear comfy clothes and lay down on my bed or sofa, covered by a warm blanket. I listen to his voice tell me how to relax each part of my body. First my left toe, then the bottom of my left foot, then my ankle, the top of my foot, my lower leg…. you can see how it takes 40 minutes to get through every part of the body. My dad learned this type of meditation when he was 21, and often uses this technique to fall asleep. I find myself falling asleep too while doing this meditation….the ultimate relaxation.

Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts in 1979, and for the last almost 40 years, has been helping millions to deal with chronic pain and to develop meditation practices that help to deal with emotional/physical pain, as well as nurture compassion, empathy, and love (the natural state of our hearts). I love how he has a PHd in molecular biology and is also a devout Buddhist. His combination of the two worlds is what we need right now – people who can bridge the gap between science and alternative medicine.

Here is his definition of mindfulness:

Mindfulness is about paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and without judgment.

Mindfulness is also about having an inner knowing of who you really are… it is a way of coming back home to yourself.

 

Every Day Is My Birthday

Just got home from the Sai Centre in Ottawa, where we sang bhajans and devotional songs as part of the regular Sunday program. I walked in to a song about Radha and Krishna, which brought tears to my eyes. It’s been hard to find the tears lately, the release that I need so much. I’m grateful to be at home during this time, surrounded by my amazing parents (Mom who is always happy no matter what, Dad who is calm and even-keeled) and my brother who brings a fresh young perspective to everything, and reminds me of Drake and hip-hop and working out and just enjoying life, not taking anything too seriously. I’ve had a lot of anger lately at life in general, wondering how I’m going to make it through, but deep down knowing that I already have.

I was distracted in my thoughts, then riveted in the present moment by the most beautiful voice of a young man, probably in his twenties. I had never heard anything like it and I let the sounds pierce my wretched heart. (ok there is me being dramatic again!). At the end of the singing, we watched a discourse from Satya Sai Baba, who is an enlightened being whose religion of love and motto of “Love All, Serve All” spreads love throughout the world and continues to inspire millions who dedicate themselves to service in his name. He passed away a few years ago, but his spirit and influence lives on. It was great to hear his voice, coming straight from the heart, speaking of how to purify your heart from hatred, anger, and jealousy.  Jealousy is a big one for me! I never thought I was the jealous type, but lately I’ve discovered that quality within myself and it ain’t pretty. And there is bitterness too. But over-arching is my ache and my desire to better myself, to enjoy this very moment and appreciate life. In the discourse, Sai Baba spoke of how he always laughs when people wish him Happy Birthday, because he is always happy, every second, every minute. He doesn’t wait once a year to be happy. Ok I get his point, but I love my birthday! It actually reminds me of why I was born and makes me feel immense gratitude. He was wearing a white cotton robe and his hair was messy, and he looked so simple yet radiated so much love and light. My parents were a little frustrated with the translation since it kept overlapping with his speaking, but overall it was a pleasure to listen to. I was sitting next to my Mom, who was immersed in prayer, and my Dad was on the other side (men and women are separated), sitting at the back where all the cool kids sit.

We went downstairs for food and it was so nice to be served a heaping plate of Indian saks (potatoes, paneer, channa masala) and of course the sweets which are always the best part. I sat with my Dad and Srikant Uncle and another man whose name I didn’t catch, and I ate mostly in silence since some of the bad feelings were overtaking me. They have been deep down for awhile, and seem to surface at certain times. It’s quite overwhelming. I have an appointment with a psychiatrist this week, I will see if we can increase the dosage of my medication or do something so that I can keep going and do the things that I love. It’s hard to believe that I’m back here but such is life I guess. My Mom came and joined us after serving which always brings a smile to my face. She is a glowing light!! She introduced me to a friend who asked if I lived in Toronto. Of course Toronto always makes me light up!! It’s my city after all. I’m going back there this coming weekend and I can’t wait! I then ran into Renu Auntie who I hadn’t seen in ages (I used to have a big crush on her son Rahul when I was young, every time Tuje Dekha Ho Yeh Janna Sanam would play, I would think of him). I told her that her son was so good-looking and she said that he is married with two kids now! On my way out, I was called over by a very happy grandmother, who looked like she was in her eighties and treated me like her daughter (“I just want to hug you!” she said). I have never seen such a happy person. She thought that I was my sister who she had met in India at the Puttaparthi ashram. She asked if I spoke Tamil which I didn’t (although people tell me that I look Tamil lol!). Then we left and drove home, stopping to fill up gas at the Costco which is crazy because it looks like you’re at customs with the crazy long line-ups.

Also my Dad said that he would pay for me to go to Iceland with my friend Jasmine which is super exciting! I’ve been wanting to go for awhile so it would be amazing if that works out. There is also a wedding in Phoenix that I want to go in December, and my friend Neesha’s batchelorete party in Vegas, and also her wedding in Mexico next year which will be amazing. So many exciting things ahead! Iceland is off-season in October but that just means better deals. K now I’m thinking about jobs and money, so I’m off to see what’s out there. I am really dying to work!