Monday, May 26, 2014

My Experience at the Ashram

Entrance to the Ashram

Some of you may know that this past weekend I stayed at the Yoga Shakti ashram in Palm Bay, Florida for about three days. My experience can be described as spiritual, eye-opening and unforgettable. Although even those words will not do it justice. Sometimes it's hard to put a spiritual type of experience into words because you are dealing with feelings, energy and higher levels of living. What I can say though that as soon as I left to come back home my energy levels immediately dropped very low and I honestly didn't realize how high my energy level was while there.

I arrived on Friday afternoon and was greeted by the lovely family that runs the ashram. The ashram is seated in the middle of a forest on about 20 acres of land. There were different cottage-like houses on the property along with the screened pavilion where yoga was done any many of us slept. It was not glamorous living by any stretch of the imagination and even though I love that, it's not for everybody. I slept on my yoga mat on the floor of the pavilion with a lite blanket. Showers in the morning had to be quick as we were all sharing and we only had about 45 minutes to get ready in the morning. No shaving my legs or styling my hair and of course no makeup! :) The days were hot and the only place that had A/C was the temple which thankfully we were in much of the time. Surprisingly the nights cooled up quite a bit and I was grateful for that since I was sleeping in the screened pavilion. 

Statue of Ganesha in the Pavilion

Each morning we were woken up at 5:00am for morning meditation and prayer. The first morning we were awoken by someone playing a flute and the second morning the guru walked around the ashram reciting a chant that we had all learned the previous night. If any of you know the morning and evening Hindu prayers, they are very long and they're in Sanskrit so it was hard to follow along in the beginning. After that we had an hour yoga class taught by the guru. Throughout the day the guru taught us some of the Upanishads which are a collection of Vedic texts. Basically Hindu philosophy.

The philosophy behind what Hindus believe and practice rings the most true for me. Even though I do consider myself to be Pagan, Hindu philosophy is the most correct in my opinion. They believe that God (or Goddess for some of us) lives inside you and we all have the ability to connect with our higher selves through meditation and basic self awareness. To
understand and fully accept who you really are and to love yourself. I have always been of this mindset but didn't truly understand it until now. Many of us (myself included) search for external sources to satisfy us like material things or new careers or even love. What we need to understand is that what will fulfill us the most is looking on the inside to satisfy our needs. If you feel full and happy on the inside you will no longer need to keep searching for all the many external factors to satisfy yourself.
Statue of Krishna and Radha in the Temple

After lunch sometimes we had free time for a bit so I either walked the property or wrote in my journal. In the evening we had another session of the Upanishads and we learned some chanting as well as other meditation type exercises. We were sent to bed at 9:30 and lights were out. On my second night there after our nightly lecture from the guru, we were all given an exercise in silence and from 9:30 that night until we arrived for morning meditation the next day we were not supposed to talk at all. Even though I'm naturally a quite person, this was a little harder than I expected!

Statue of the Goddess Durga in the Temple
The family and others cooked every meal for us which was amazing. They grew much of their own own vegetables and herbs on the property so everything was organic and very pure. Every meal was vegan and incredibly delicious and satisfying. I'm vegan normally as well but I still noticed a difference in the food because it was so incredibly pure. While I was there I felt so lite like if I jumped too high I might float up into the clouds. You can feel the energy just buzzing around that place. It's palpable and I instantly felt a big shift in my energy the moment I drove off the property. I wanted to go back! I will go back at another time for sure.

I had never encountered a guru in my life so this was quite a different experience for me. They are strict so as to teach you discipline but you have to understand that it's nothing personal. I had a hard time with this at first but I understood why and now I totally respect it.  They are there to teach you and they are highly respected, revered and even worshiped people. Guru's are filled with knowledge and experience and they can literally see right thru you with no problem. They can be seen as being psychic even but I think it's just an extreme awareness to be able to see people for who they really are, and they will not hesitate to call you out on it.

I enjoyed my time at the ashram immensely and I can honestly say that this experience has changed my life in ways I still don't understand. All I know for sure is that this is something I will be experiencing more as it's left it's mark on my soul.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Nine Muses, Goddesses of Inspiration

The Muses in Greek mythology consisted of nine goddesses that were known to give inspiration to those partaking in creative endeavors. They were known to rule over music, dance, poetry, artistry, science, mathematics, astronomy and drama. The Muses are daughters of Zeus, Father of the Gods, and Mnemosyne, Goddess of memory. In Greek myth it is said that Zeus laid with Mnemosyne for nine nights and a year later she gave birth to nine daughters who were known for their creative talents and gift of song.

In myth the Muses were sometimes referred to as water nymphs as they were associated with four sacred springs. The Muses were said not to care about human affairs but were immersed in all ways of creativity. Their main cult center was located at Mount Helicon in Boeotia, Greece. A festival was celebrated in their honor every four years at Thespiae (near Helicon) in which much singing and dancing took place. 

The Muses gave inspiration to many poets and philosophers. They were said to usually be invoked prior to any kind of creative activity. It is said that the Muses inspired Hesiod to write his epic poem the Theogony.

Below is a list of each of the Muses along with their correspondences.

Kleio - Muse of history. Her name in Greek means "to celebrate" or "famous". She is often depicted carrying a scroll or sitting next to a chest of books

Kalliope - Muse of epic poetry. Her name in Greek means "beautiful-voiced". She was said to also be a Goddess of eloquence and wisdom. Kalliope was depicted carrying a writing tablet or a book.

Erato - Muse of lyric poetry especially known for her love and erotic poetry. Her name means "lovely" or "beloved". She is depicted wearing a wreath made from myrtle and roses and holding a lyre.

Euterpe - Muse of music. She was the Goddess that performed for the Gods on Mount Olympus. Her name means "the giver of much delight" and she is depicted playing or often holding a flute.

Melpomene - Muse of tragedy or drama. Her name means "to celebrate with dance and song". She is depicted wearing a tragic mask and wearing the boots that those types of actors wore.

Polyhymnia - Muse of sacred poetry and sacred hymn. Her name can mean "praise" or "hymn". She is depicted as being in very serious thought while holding a finger to her mouth.

Terpsikhore - Muse of dance. Her name means "delight in dancing". She is depicted sitting or standing while holding a lyre.

Thalia - Muse of comedy and idyllic poetry. Her name means "rich festivity" or "blooming". She is depicted wearing a crown of ivy and wearing a comic mask.

Urania - Muse of astronomy. Her name means "heavenly" or "of heaven". Urania can tell the future by the arrangement of the stars. She is depicted wearing a cloak embroidered with the stars while pointing to a celestial globe.

Artist ~ Andrea Mantegna - Parnassus

Monday, May 5, 2014

Magic Monday, Oneiromancy

Oneiromancy is the art of dream-work or dream divination. It is an ancient practice dating back many thousands of years and was used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Maltese and other ancient cultures. In ancient Malta people would visit the Hypogeum which was an underground chamber where they would sleep in the presence of the goddess in order to receive divine answers through dreams.  This is known as dream incubation and was also practiced in Ancient Greece at the Oracle of Delphi. The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were said to have scribes interpret their dreams for prophecies.

To practice the art of dream divination all one needs is sleep, a dream journal and a comfortable bed. Although adding other items can also help make your dreams a little more magical. If you do not already do so, get in the habit of keeping a dream journal. This can be any kind of journal, it doesn't have to be anything fancy. Just something to write your dreams down in daily. This should be done soon after you wake up so you do not forget important details. Keeping a dream journal will also help you to notice any patterns within your dreams and will therefore help your divination.

You can choose to invoke or not invoke your deity of choice for your dream divination as well. Setting up a shrine and doing some meditation before bed may also be an option. A nice hot, aromatic bath is also a nice way to relax your body and mind before bed. You may also choose to pull a card from a tarot deck and place the card under your pillow. Make sure to closely study your card right before you close your eyes so as to get a lasting image of the card in your mind.

Once you have completed any activities beforehand like setting up a shrine or taking a bath, make sure your bed is set up as you normally would. Your dream journal should be next to your bed with a pen so it will be ready for the you in the morning. Now cleanse your area with a smudge stick or incense or you may even wish to chant something. Get into bed and make yourself comfortable. Now is the time to invoke a deity of your choice or focus on a tarot card that you pulled. Now fall asleep as you normally would.

When you awake in the morning write down your dream as much as you can remember and if you had multiple dreams. Sometimes things may come to you throughout the day as well, write those down too. Try to think about the meaning of your dream as it relates to the particular answer you are seeking. Sometimes if we do not get the answer right away come back to the dream in your journal a day later and see it something clicks. You can also perform the divination again.

Wishing everyone magical dreams!
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