Upcycled/Recycled – Portable Ganesha Altar Kit

X-posted from my Creative Space.

Sometimes I like to challenge myself and do something new. Think outside the box and step outside of my zone of familiarity, and my zone of comfort. Kind of like the saying, do something new or something that scares you everyday. Not necessarily just by creating this piece, but also by sharing more about myself at the end.

I looked through my stash of art supplies and I decided to craft this portable altar kit. It could also be described as a mini-shrine, and mine is made of upcycled, repurposed and recycled materials. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on something like this. Honestly most things I acquired for free, already had on hand, or made. I gave a few examples of what I gathered the products from to give you your own ideas. On how you can upcycle things into a meaningful craft.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a shrine or altar is, here’s a brief description. While The dictionary talks about them being a receptacle for sacred relics, or a place considered sacred because of its relationship to a holy person or event, they can also be for other reasons. You could have one for political, humorous, satirical, one’s family, travel, nature, basically anything that is of interest of the artist creating the piece, or  imbibed with intentions for the person it’s being designed for.

 

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Materials used:
The “box” was made from an old altoids [mints] tin I had lying around.
The covering is a combination of papers from old kannada calendars, printer paper, cardstock, and scrapbook paper.
The sacred objects are items that hold value and have meaning to me. Things I have picked up during my travels.
-A red rock from a vortex in Sedona, Az.
-Incense
-Rudraksha seed/bead from a spiritual retreat.
-Thread from a puja in India.
-Mini-ganesha idol/murti.
-Sacred symbols, quotes, yantra, shloka book, mantras etc… I made using scrap paper and my printer.
-Auspicious paper marigolds.
– Battery powered candle.
-Bag to wrap everything in. [from a spare velvet gift bag, originally given to me with a birthday gift inside]

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I never feel like it’s 100% finished, because I add special items from my journeys, and because I keep adding items from a personal wish list of items I originally wanted to add to the little altar that I came up with as I was creating it.  Portable altars come in handy for those who travel, someone living in a small space, someone going off to college, and I am sure there are other examples.

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Taking a deep breathing and just diving in. Since I don’t always talk about myself on here, as some of you may not know I celebrate an amalgamation of holidays and this craft honors the cultures that resonate with me. I honor Hindu culture and customs, as well as the standard American / Catholic Holidays that are common such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter etc… The next Hindu holiday upcoming is Ganesha Chaturthi, and since I will likely be out of town this little altar will come in handy for me. I do not consider myself to be a religious person, but a person who is spiritual.

I previously haven’t written many personal details on my blog  due to the need in the professional world to have keep details of my personal life withheld. Keep my cards held close to my chest and keep myself out of the limelight.  I am now at a new path in my life where I can share more, not be so closed off or guarded. After not having done this for so long I feel really vulnerable to open up. Sometimes it can be freeing to write to a world of strangers, to write to no one you know in particular, but today alas is just one of those days I just feel more susceptible to judgement. Anyway I hope you enjoy hearing about me and getting to know more about me from time to time. I also hope this post maybe taught you something new or inspired you to do something new today as well.

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Happy Varamahalakshmi

Today is Vara(boon) Mahalakshmi(Goddess of Wealth) festival. Celebrated across south of India. The women folk celebrate this for the wellbeing of their families. Eight forces or energies are recognised and they are known as Siri (Wealth), Bhu (Earth), Sarasvathi (learning), Prithi (Love), Keerthi (Fame), Shanthi (Peace), Santhushti(Pleasure) and Pushti(Strength). Each one of these forces is called a Lakshmi and all the eight forces are called the Ashta Lakshmis or the eight Lakshmis of the Hindus.

Here’s wishing one and all a happy Varamahalakshmi.

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Lessons in Life Sometimes Bring Gratitude

I’m on cloud nine and have been this whole weekend for a change of pace. This weather and some changes at work had me feeling really down and out, additionally it left me in a negative head space. Most people who know me well would be surprised that with the gloomy weather outside, to find me in such an upbeat mood today.

I’m feeling such joy, gratitude, love and warmth in my heart. The kindness of strangers can go a long way my friends in cheering someone up. My family was distraught when one of our little chihuahua’s escaped unbeknownst to us. Possibly when a contractor came to work on mom’s kitchen remodel. The temperatures dropped where my family lives, and they couldn’t find our Chi – Steven. After a few days had passed, and fliers had been put up, they still couldn’t locate him, and were beginning to lose hope.

We were worried that due to old age and cold temps, that he had frozen to death somewhere out there, in the pale moonlight. Mom was upset and in trying to make her feel better I mentioned how perhaps since he is really quite old maybe it was his time, and maybe just maybe he wanted to just be alone and not be a burden on us. He has led a long life lovely after all at 15 human years I reminded her.

I continued on with what I hoped was comforting words and went on to say, Now he can run across the rainbow bridge in the sky with his brother Greedo, [another chi we had that passed away a few years back] and they can have all their fill of dog bones, pig ears and “greenies” to their hearts content. Mom laughed and I could tell she felt better. I was so relieved. She does not handle down trodden times well. We spoke for a while more and once I was certain she would be okay we disconnected the line.

When I reached home I lost myself in painting, art through meditation. I chanted a sloka [mantra]. Gayatri, that which saves, brought us back our little furry family member. I learned first hand how  Gayatri mantra are very powerful meditation aids.

A  few days later came our Happy Ending. My heart is absolutely brimming with love and appreciation. I’m grateful and it’s because there really are still good people out there in the world. Some young girls down the street found Steven and returned him home to my family. My family has such gratitude that Steven was found.

My yogaverse:

[aka life in my universe]

Life doesn’t always have happy endings, many things happen so our souls can understand. So we can take in what we needed to learn from these situations. Even if we could wave a magic wand and change things, they would only change back until our souls understood what it is that we needed to learn and experience in this life.

In this latest life lesson, it brought gratitude, hope, contentment, and love. Along with all that, the gentle reminder that as above mentioned, there really are still good people in this world.

“Ribbon Lotus”: Art through meditation, depicting gratitude and love

Christmas Shubhashayagalu

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Shub Christu Jayanti , no matter how you say it, I want to wish you and your families all Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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According to Norad Tracker Santa has already made his way about 1/2 around the world. He’s a busy guy. I’ve watched my two all time favorite holiday films “Miracle on 34th street [the original version from 1947] and The Nutcracker Ballet. I’ve planned out tomorrow’s menu which for those who are curious will consist of veg biryani, kesari bath, and paliya or samosa.

We are anticipating a white Christmas after all. Christmas will be low key in my house. Morning yoga, a cup of hot cocoa, a few gifts will be exchanged over Skype video chats with family around the world. Things are a little different than in the past, however its nice to still recognize the holiday and even start new traditions.

I must close for now, its time for a round of yoga. I gotta keep that depression at bay. So I ask you dear ones:

How will you celebrate?

What are some of your specific annual holiday traditions?

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Symptoms Of Inner Peace

new Preface update 9.29.13

As of Sept 29, 2013 It was brought to my attention that my original post “12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening” was something that apparently someone out there on the interwebs re-named. It happens as people share on social media sites like facebook etc… and not notate the piece’s origination. Then the cycle continues on since newcomers have no idea who to credit either. Anyway, apparently they took this info from author Saskia Davis’s poster. They also changed the title from “Symptoms Of Inner Peace ” to “12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening”. Some people out there don’t always take the time to properly credit an author’s original work. I am someone who always tries to give credit where credit is due, and have therefore included this paragraph with links to Saskia’s site. I have posted both versions so you can compare. You can see the subtle nuances or differences that can happen over time. Think of that game, telephone we played as kids where the original statement changes over time. Each person the statement is whispered to is can change bit by bit from the original.

This is what her lovely poster looks like:

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[12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening]

The below was originally posted on Dec 16, 2012.

As someone on a path to spiritual enlightenment, I happen to come across this lovely gem:

  1. An increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  2. Frequent attacks of smiling.
  3. Feelings of being connected with others and nature.
  4. frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  5. A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fears based on past experience.
  6. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  7. A loss of ability to worry.
  8. A loss of interest in conflict.
  9. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
  10. A loss of interest in judging others.
  11. A loss of interesting in judging self.
  12. Gaining the ability to love without expecting anything.

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Yogaverse:

My next statement is not meant to disrespect the author in any way, or discredit her time and efforts in her endeavors. Its more of me just talking to myself if you will, since this is a blog of honesty in my journey. Where I track my thoughts, my progress, my areas of opportunity, my fails or shortcomings, or even my successes. They are all things I [we] learn from in life. My thoughts eat at me and I’d regret not writing out my feelings. If I didn’t say that for me I personally felt like the title “12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening” resonated more with me than “Symptoms Of Inner Peace” title does. I feel like I wouldn’t be my true authentic self if I didn’t note that when or if I reminisced on this post again in the future.

It was something that has been eating at me and I’ve been losing sleep over. I realized in order to continue on a path of inner peace, and spiritual enlightenment that I had to write my feelings down. Put the pen to paper. Perhaps it resonates with me because I feel like I am on more of a spiritual journey than a peace journey at this time, although it’s certainly worth noting you need one to have the other. Perhaps it’s also because that was the title I have been used to. Nevertheless the key to take away from all this is that they are great mantras and statements to live by no matter how you feel, and to remember to give credit where credit is due.

Again no disrespect mean to Saskia.

Sources:
http://acelebrationofwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Spiritual-Awakening4.jpg

Holding Space

Holding Space is a term often heard in yoga and other spiritual types of work, but it’s highly likely that not all understand the impact, the meaning, and the significance of holding space. Unless you have either been fortunate to be involved in a spiritual or yoga community from the get go, or had someone sit down and explain the term, you might not be able to fully grasp the lovely meaning behind this term. Now I consider myself to not only be open-minded but to have an open heart. While I had a feeling I knew what this term meant, to be honest as a personal rule I never like to assume anything.  So in my quest for enlightenment if you will, I decided to be a seeker of knowledge and truth. To discover what holding space means and share my interpretation of my findings.

There are several uses and meanings for holding space. You can hold space for your self with in your meditation or yoga practice. You can be responsible for your own space. In this space your warm, safe and loved. Whatever your heart may desire, the manifestation is out there waiting for you. If you hold the space, you’ll create the place, to make your dreams come true.

Holding Space

When you hold space for others, say in a yoga class environment, your creating a safe, loving and good atmosphere for the others you are holding the space for. We as the facilitator’s or holders of the space if you will, are offering ourselves up as a container for any overwhelming thoughts or feelings our companions may be encountering on their path. Everyone has and is responsible for their own space. But that doesn’t mean one person can’t hold the space for another until they can make it for themselves. Did you know there are other ways people in our lives have held space for us? Think back to when you were in school, unbeknownst to us our professors held space for us to grasp our unknown potentials. As kids our parents automatically held a safe space full of hope, and love so we can grow up with confidence. We hold space for our friends when they are upset due to one circumstance or another, and we offer them a shoulder to cry on, love, comfort, and a sympathetic ear.

Another way to look at it is that holding space for someone means staying engaged and present with them while they undergo a process of self-inquiry and discovery of truth. When we hold the space for someone we are just present, listening, and validating. We aren’t judging, giving advice or offering a solution. We are just there, in the present moment, holding their pain, their anguish, their joy, their space.

It not difficult to hold space, just remember this easy rule, if you hold the space, you’ll create the place. Intention is the key.

Image Source:
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Tea Quotes, Sedona, life in the Yogaverse

Your life is based on the capacity of energy in you, not outside of you.

Sedona, AZ, USA

 

Life in my Yogaverse, or why this Quote is Important to me:

I recently had the pleasure of taking a trip to one of my favorite places, Sedona, Arizona. Before I arrived I planned to wake up early and start my normal routine of daily yoga practice.

Sunrise in Sedona, AZ

I can’t emphasize enough, how much I had really been looking forward to starting my practice off with the sunrise, as I had my last visit. performing the asana’s in what to me is a magical place, is something I treasure. Performing the sun salutations [Surya Namaskar] with the sunrise and that fresh prana, really brings new meaning and clarity to those poses that warm my muscles up for the rest of the flow.

Due to the daily grind of a mentally exhausting job back home, I found it a bit difficult to get going with my normal routine, instead of relaxing and enjoying the peacefulness that Sedona promises and delivers. I found my self struggling with allowing my self to sit back and enjoy the respite, instead of performing my practice which in turn helps keep my depression at bay and keeps me off my meds. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy yoga, all that it encompasses, and how it makes me feel. The fact that it can keep me off anti-depressants is a major testaments to my mental health, however I sometimes dislike that I “have” to do it just as much as I “want” to do it. Sometimes I just want to be a normal person who can just get up and go, not someone who has to do something. If I just want to get up and go, I have to do this practice everyday like clock work, else those niggling feelings of depression start sinking in and its further down the spiral I go.

Since I had been feeling content, and was enjoying the respite from work, I decided I would take advantage of the spiritual cleanse from visiting vortex’s. I felt confident, brave, and daring. Like the saying “fortune favors the brave”, I took a chance. I slept in! I caught up on sleep for a change. If I woke up early, I read and disappeared into the depths of an alternate world we call books. I drank copious amounts of water as if it was going out of style, to stay hydrated in the high desert temps [100-112F/37c-44c]. After a while I waffled between reading my novel, and yoga news.

An article caught my eye. Now while the point of the article was discussing early morning yoga classes, vs doing what one feels best for their body. I thought okay let’s see where this goes. In my case the words of a yoga guru stood out in my mind. “The point of yoga,  is  more unlimited joy for you.” Yoga should make us happy it should be the thing, or one of the many things, we can look forward to most in our day. It should be something that can provide us  a break from our worries and woes, not something causing them. So then why was I feeling so torn. The article said, “why should yoga, of all things, drag us out of bed and make one miserable”? Well yoga certainly does not make me miserable, however I so wanted to just relax, and just be. I didn’t want to feel torn, and doing a practice because I had to vs because I want to vs should I allow my body to catch up on sleep and relaxation or do this other thing [yoga] that is always so beneficial for me.

Prior to reading the article, doing yoga later in the day as the temperatures rose was not as desirable, early morning it would be [70 F-80 F] so it was obviously a bit cooler and more tolerable for practicing. There wasn’t room in my hotel room for a practice, so I had to make a decision quick. To do yoga, or not to do yoga, that was the question. I decided to stick with my guns and my original decision, and relax, sleep if I felt tired, and read if it was too late for yoga. Glancing at the time and the rising temperatures, it was too late for practice today, and that’s how it happened the rest of the week. I did not scold myself, or allow myself to beat myself up over it. I saw that quote and allowed myself to feel the positive energy from within, to feel content and happy with my decision. I did not focus on the fact that there was a potential for spiraling down the rabbit hole later, I focused on the positives of my trip. I took advantage of the beautiful weather. I took a hike one day, and meditated later that evening, there was certainly room enough for that.

Sedona will always hold a magical place in my heart, one that I hope to visit again and again. If I could live there, I certainly would.

 

Yoga, Music and My Spiritual Healing Journey

First stop today is a catch up of life in my Yogaverse, then onward to a post about music. It’s sunny outside, a nice reprieve from the constant rain we have had lately here in New England. There’s a smile on my face. I feel when we are with out the sun that I have to push myself that much more, and really work extra hard to not feel low, lose my concentration, or my motivation. It’s hard sometimes, okay most times, but today I feel like I made it through to the other side and I can smile.

I know the rain is what keeps everything looking so lush and green outside but I would be remiss if I did not admit that its hard to mentally deal with so much rain. As I sit here typing away on my keyboard, having a cuppa Tulsi [sacred holy basil plant] tea I brought back from India, and listening to some Kirtan music, I felt inspired to change my original topic to music.

Tulsi Plant (in the decorative planter)

One thing you will find a lot of at these combined music and yoga festivals [i.e. Bhakti fest, Shakti fest, Tadasana Festival etc…] is Kirtan/Bhajans or general upbeat music.  The music carries you, uplifts you, and brings a smile to your face. Your heart will open and you will feel as if you are receiving so much love from the universe.  Kirtan, Bhajan, no matter what you call it, is a style of music known as the call and response chanting using devotional traditions stemmed  from India. If your not familiar with this style of music, another benefit is that it can also bring you closer to the gods if you believe in them. They are a vehicle to show devotion to the gods, however please bear in mind that you need not be religious, spiritual, or following a certain faith to enjoy and take advantage of the healing powers from the music.

Bhajans reverberate through your entire body and [at least for me] leave you feeling fulfilled, content, calm and “healed” from mental sadness or other botherations. The music is fun and invokes that feeling where you want to drop what your doing and sing along. I have always enjoyed music, singing and dancing. I  can now add that I consider chanting to be a part of my spiritual path.

There are quite a few podcasts out there and other ways to experience the music if its something your not familiar with. For the sake of making your life easier I will include some resources here.

Resources:

spotify you can download the free client and type in keywords such as “kirtan” or “bhajan” and listen to some selections. Like most free accounts these days you will be subjected to commercials.

New World Kirtan Podcast calming chants for a crazy world.

I first learned of bhajans from the “Art of Living“. One day while I was at an advanced course during Guru Poornima, I heard two that stood out in my mind they are Govinda Radhe Radhe Shyam and Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambo. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.

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Yoga and Your Diet

Before I jump in and talk about the topic of yoga and the diet connection, I want to apologize for the lack of posting and being a bit behind. Since this blog is a also record of my spiritual journey practicing yoga, and life in my yogaverse, I thought I would add a few personal notes to make up for it. Sometimes life takes over and there’s not enough hours in the day, let alone the week. Like most of you I become busy with work, family obligations and those responsibilities that niggle at us as adults. I’m nearly finished going thru my photos from my trip to India, and about 1/2 the way done digitizing my travel journal.

Land Puja I participated in. Mysore, India.

I started this blog because I enjoy yoga and all that it has to offer me. I wanted [and now feel blessed to have] a place where I can talk about yoga. I am humbled and thrilled any time I see someone like or follow me. Thank you dear readers. You make my heart feel warm and fuzzy inside. Today is mother’s Day and I find myself missing my own mother. She thankfully is still alive but is on the other side of the continent. A 6.5 hr plane ride from where I currently stay, which may as well be the other side of the world, since that’s what it feels like. Wishing you all a happy mother’s day out there.

Bright blessings,

Namaste.

Vegetarianism and Yoga

We all have to eat to survive. The reason most of us yogis and yoginis partake in a vegetarian diet while practicing the ancient discipline of yoga is that we feel like it enhances our practice. We feel cleaner, healthier, and more motivated.  We feel like the prana flows more freely. Everyone has their own path and experiences, their own reasons for doing what it is they do.

I personally follow a vegetarian diet like many yoga practitioners however that was not the main reason why I started this “vegetable diet” as my grandmother calls it. I don’t preach that all yoga practitioners need to follow a vegetarian diet, sure its recommend, but above all do what works for you. This is not a place to judge and therefore it does not bother me that I am the only vegetarian in my side of the family. I began a vegetarian diet as part of a cleaner lifestyle and diet when I decided I did not want to be on anti-depressants any longer and took the plunge to stop them all “cold turkey”.  It’s not recommended for individuals to stop medicines like that, but somehow I just knew I would be okay. I guess a week-long session with your spiritual Gurus will do that for you.

I found the internal strength that I needed to survive without all those anti-depressant toxins in my system and thus began my vigorous Art of Living  classes  combined with my own personal vital self-discipline. This was 6 yrs ago and I am still a vegetarian today. I look back with a smile on my face and have no regrets in  my heart on that decision. I feel the healthiest I have been, I have more energy and feel so much more alive. I feel more in-tune with my body like never before. That is why I am a vegetarian. I feel lighter and more energetic and want food that I feel enhances my journey.

Now that I am more in tune with my body, I can tell what I need when I have certain cravings or certain aches or pains. For example those leg cramps, yah I need more potassium. Bananas and coconut water sort that out for me. I have to make sure that I drink plenty of water, exercise, and have plenty of fiber in my diet. I can’t stress enough the importance of fiber and water in ones diet.  Being a vegetarian I found my most favorite type of food to eat has been Indian food. There are just so many more tasty and flavorful  possibilities in my eyes. When I became a vegetarian I wanted to learn how to cook Indian food. It seemed so daunting to me before learning. In my head I kept thinking it would be quite difficult. Along the way I learned  how to cook some Indian food dishes. I learned how to take other dishes or recipes and “Indianised” them and also give them my own spin or flair if you will. I don’t necessarily even follow all Indian food recipes to a “T” anymore. I haven’t taken any such cooking classes, this is just me experimenting on my own.

One thing I have learned is with Indian cooking, you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to measure exactly the amounts of spices for example, the way you would in say baking those American cakes or cookies. This keen observation I learned makes it that much easier for me to cook my favorite foreign foods and worth a share.

Yesterday I found that in my normal routine of  preparing dishes to have for my weeks lunches at work, I had a craving for Vegetarian Shahi Biryani. I scoured the interwebs and found a recipe that I adapted and made my own. One change to the recipe for today that provided some extra protein was to swap out the rice for quinoa [“keen-wah“]. As a side salad I also made a cucumber dill raita.

My Lunch: Quinoa Vegetarian Shahi Biryani + Cucumber Dill Raita