Love Yourself

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Visions of Varkala

“Women are the power and the very foundation of our existence in the world. It is therefore, crucial that women everywhere make every effort to rediscover their fundamental nature for only then can we save the world.” 
Amma (hugging Mother)

Today, I am in Paradise and discovering the Divine in Life~

At this moment in time and space, I am standing on a ragged line of red cliffs in southern Kerala where the land meets the Arabian Sea. Looking out across a turquoise glistening ocean, I feel the expansiveness of my life before me. I love my Life!

While I was in Varanasi, I was introduced into the further realms of Goddess worship through Tantra Yoga - or the Goddess of Energy. Thus begins the awakening of my Shakti energy at a higher level, frequency and velocity. I am guided further into the south of Kerala by the power of this ultimate divine feminine force. Here now I discover the Divine in life, the very essence of beauty and ultimate moving from the darkness into the light. Varkala, with wonderful white sandy beaches, expanding vistas, delicious sunsets and thatch roofed bungalows perched on cliffs is a place for seafood lovers, yoga & meditation. Among this serene and calm ambience is a melting pot of nationalities and an important pilgrimage centre which radiates Shakti. Ma - our mother of Nature for some reason draws me near.

While I was on the plane travelling with Jet Airways from Chennai to Trivandrum, I received a copy of their in-flight magazine. Inside was a feature article on Varkala. On the last page of the story there was a small advertisement for the guesthouse called Arabian Soul. I loved the name - and the colours for the ad are similar to my website. The energy felt right and I tucked the magazine in my bag with intention to give the guesthouse a call.

One evening, after my birthday backwater adventure, I contacted the guesthouse….they were full but the young man told me to call back at around 10pm the next evening as something may be available. Lucky for me…when I called they did have a room for the day I wanted to travel.

I left my home stay near Kollam on the 12th. The manager’s wife is taking a university program and I was lucky to create a free ride to the train station. Once there it was time to pack the backpack and rest of the goodies in such a way that I could easily get on the train. Once the trains arrive, it is a free for all getting a space. The entryway to the train is not always conducive to things hanging off the sides of packs. One thing about getting trains…I sure feel like unloading the stuff I seem to collect. Sorry friends back home…you may have to do without all the gifts I had planned to bring.

A very kind man who spoke some English helped me get the right car and passed on my bag and guitar. I just stood at the doorway of the train. It was another sleeper car…no assigned seats and I was not about to wrestle someone for a spot. The train ride was only 30 minutes. Easy.

Once at the Varkala station, I got off and just stood there. Which way to go? I saw a couple with a small child standing there too. We all looked at each other and laughed. The exit was on the other side of the tracks with the walkway…some distance. We decided to step down the ramp and cross the tracks. We helped each other with packs and bags. Me, I felt like a kid playing hooky from school. I love India for the impromptu meetings with people. You just never know whom you will travel with at any time. Nice couple from Israel. We hailed our taxi…my favorite little white car stopped (reminds me and even smelled like the 52 Dodge that I once owned). Soon we were on the north cliff of Varkala with the freshness of the seabreeze and warmth of the sun.

I arrived at the Arabian Soul Guesthouse on the north cliff of Varkala. It is located a few steps back from the main ocean cliff walkway with beautiful gardens and a peaceful atmosphere. A lovely couple greeted me. My hosts Brygid and Naveen are very kind and eager to please their guests. Check out Upon check in they asked me how I heard about their place. I told them about the Jet Airways in-flight magazine producing it from my bag. They both were ecstatic. They had heard something of the promotion but had not actually seen the ad, nor who actually put it in the story. Being in business for only 5 months, this was a great achievement. It turns out they had an upstairs corner room with a nice ocean view available for a little more money. I took it for the next 6 days.

While waiting for my room to be ready, I took a stroll along the cliff walkway to admire the softness and beauty of the area. The Divine feminine energy was calling me - within a few minutes I discovered a lovely lady in a little shop overlooking the sea. My hair was in dire need of some Goddess attention. Rasha was so eager to please and assured me that she could lure out that divine Goddess even more with Hair and Henna. Before I knew it, my hair was sassy and fun. Not only can Rasha cut hair, but she is an amazing henna tattoo artist. I had so much fun being treated with special attention and chose an Arabian design. The trip to India was my ultimate 50th birthday gift. That aside, I also decided to make a more conscious effort to celebrate and rejuvenate my body. It has served me well for the first 50 years and now I will honour and treat it like a golden temple for the next 50. I loved the henna tattoo. It is so good to have it, play with it and know that it only lasts a few weeks. This way it is not something that I live with for the rest of my life. All the products used are natural. What do you think?

Varkala has been such a wonderful experience. I love the people and friends that I have made here. Many of them are from around the world - France, Sweden and the list goes on.

The white sand beach that meets the red cliffs is great for sunning, swimming, enjoying the local fruits, meeting friends old and new and living in the loveliness of life. The Papanasm beach is also a sacred location for pilgrims to bring their family members' remains and allow the sea to absorb and liberate. The little cliff top restaurants have fantastic foods and a great location for sunset. I found the area behind the cliff top restaurants and shops to be very quiet and interesting. Many small Devi temples and little guesthouses are located here. I was blessed to meet people that had discovered the unique flavour in Varkala and had come to stay. The Devi Shakti dwells everywhere in Nature. Each small temple and holy site has its own shakti or unique power and beauty. These places aroused interesting stirrings and experiences inside of me.

Each morning and most evenings just before the sunset, I would enjoy a very invigorating and powerful yoga class at the local Namasthe Ayurvedic Mission. The Dr. of Yoga, Dr. Rajash, is a wonderful teacher - always willing to challenge me further in my practise...physically, mentally and spiritually. Ultimately, yoga is this process of unfolding the spiritual self, emphasizing the concepts of harmony, union and the consolidation of personal traits for a higher goal. In this unfolding, breath awareness is probably the most important and essential tool. My sadhana deepens mysteriously with each breath and moment of awareness. I choose to go within as an inner explorer expanding awareness of I AM THAT!

The morning class is a good Hatha with blend of Iyengar and Ashtanga and the afternoon is more a blend of Ashtanga style. Got the heart rate and the body sweating in the late afternoon. The sunset from the yoga studio is stunning.

The janardhanaswamy temple, another name of Lord Vishnu, is centuries old. All of the temples that I went to had the essense of Divine Goddess Worship. I was blessed to be invited to special puja (prayer) for women.

Whenever I would enter into the temples, a women would come and tell me that I was Parthi and that Shilva was my husband.

Parvati is Lord Shiva's consort (she is more of the peaceful Goddess energy).

The whole universe is created by the shakti of Shiva (female creative energy).

I honor Lord Shiva who is pure existence and the Celestial Yogi. Om Navah Shivaya!

I am enjoying the connection with the divine feminine, the movement within and the playfulness and fun ness of BEING me. Alive!

Life is like a wild tiger. You can either lie down and let it lay its paw on your head or sit on its back and ride it!” and at the same time...take a pit stop and indulge in Italian chocolate mousse!

Do you believe in Magic?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Amma's Ashram

“May the tree of our life

Be firmly rooted in the soil of love

Let good deeds be the leaves on that tree.

May words of kindness form its flowers?

And may peace be its fruits.” Amma

While I was flying to Kerala, I thought of a few things that I would like to experience and then just let those thoughts float up to the Universe - allowing space for magic to occur. One such thought was a visit to Amma's Ashram (the hugging saint). The other was the ritualized dance...which I created big time.

A few Austrian ladies that I met at the home-stay near Kollam told me that they went to visit Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Mother) - she is also called Amma famous for all of her good charity work and for her hugs during Darshan (an audience with an enlightenened Being). I knew that she had an ashram in the south of India, and did not realize how close it was. It is about 2 hours boat ride from where I am staying and she holds Darshan on certain days of the week when she is there. I was told that she was leaving for a South India tour and Saturday would be her last day. Well, I had the Shiva party and other events to witness that day and thought I would take my chances by going on the Sunday. Who knows…anything is possible.

I took a taxi early on Sunday morning to arrive at the remote backwater fishing village where she is from and the ashram is located. The first thing I noted was the large building that looked like a condo building. It is huge. Small boats with poling boat men move across the backwater from one side to the other. Amma has created a new bridge that expands across the river. This has been created so people can get off the island to the mainland should a tsunami come into the area. Many of the locals still use the small boats to cross the river. While taking the 1-hour drive I was thinking of a young man that I had met at the Phool Chatti Ashram and had a strong feeling that we would meet this day. As usual, I got distracted with something - some mind mapping - and let it go for the time being.

Once at the ashram, I was overwhelmed with the busy atmosphere, the systems, the commerce and back packer hostel type feeling. People seem to be moving about so quickly to somewhere. A massive conglomerate - it was overwhelming for me. At first I wanted to leave immediately, but persisted to discover the real reason why I had come. I wandered among the thousand or so people and asked someone to direct me. It was an Indian woman that nodded…she took me along a long trail leading to the cafeteria where there were western delights and food abound. There were many people dressed in white robes…they looked official so I asked one lady to direct me to the information center. A kind lady took me…she was distracted since she was preparing to go on the road with Amma. A fury of purchases of white robes, mats to sleep on and the collection of brown bread from the bakery was in order. Amma takes 10 buses with her when she travels and has a huge following of people that assist her.

There are also devotees that have been living at this ashram for many years. Many wear white robes and seem to be busy with the commerce of the ashram. Everything is done by seva (self-less there is ample opportunity for a person to employ their talents). If you have not brought anything is ok, you can purchase many styles in a number of stores at the Ashram.

I was taken to the sign in center, which opened at 10am. At this time you can receive a token for Darshan. Many said she would most probably not appear because of her departure the following day. I was ok with what is and know I was there for a reason.

There I was standing in the main square looking around and suddenly, who appeared but the young man that I had been thinking about. He was so surprised and delighted to see me. Finn had been at the ashram for two weeks saying it was one of the hardest experiences. “I love Amma…she is a loving and a kind Guru…but also firm and can be one of the hardest”, he said tiredly.

I also saw another young man that I had met along my journey - meeting new people and making new friends. During lunch and other times that I moved about, I seemed to attract some interesting characters of sorts…all wanting to tell me about their experiences, why they loved Amma. I just listened, since I could not get a word in edge wise and for whatever reason this was my role on that day. I know this is unusual for me…but I did find it fascinating just witnessing. It was like being a fly on the wall. During the day, a woman I had met took me to where Amma lived. I just sat under a tree outside her window soaking up the good vibes. It was peaceful at this place and I enjoyed visualizing a big hug from Amma. I believe we all should have at least three hugs a day to be healthy…but can you image hugging thousands upon thousands of people every day and week? She is one incredible Mama. It is truly amazing what she has created for the local community, India and other places in the world. She has hospitals, universities and the list goes on. As Amma’s says, “The world should know that a life dedicated to selfless love and service is possible.” And she would know!

Amma did not appear physically that day, though I am glad that I came to see and experience her Ashram.

I had decided to take the ferry back along the backwaters leaving at 4pm…a great sunset and still the full moon. The ferry broke down up river and did not arrive to pick me up until 6:30pm. Everything does happen for a reason. I chose to sit on the banks of the river below the ashram and just witness the people coming and going…the little boats taking people back and forth. It was a Sunday and many young people and families were arriving home from the weekend. I also wandered along the bank and visited with the local people in their homes. This is the area that Amma is from and it was great to witness the lives of the local people around the ashram.

Finally, as the sun was setting, I felt a strong desire and urge to send a ton of hugs and love to Amma as she prepared for her South Indian tour. Sitting there at the feet of the ashram, I realized that my purpose to visit today was to send love to Amma.

Amma, I am so grateful that I could be there to support, encourage and inspire you to carry on your good works – embracing the world for peace and harmony.

Please send a loving thought to Amma as she creates and embraces peace and harmony for the world.

“Everyone in the world should be able to sleep without fear, at least for one night. Everyone should be able to eat to his fill, at least for one day. There should be at least one day when hospitals see no one admitted due to violence. By doing selfless service for at least one day, everyone should help the poor and needy. It is Amma’s prayer that at least this small dream be realized.”

Amma's Ashram

I did manage to catch the ferry which was an amazing trip down the backwaters at night. When I got onto the ferry the boat man asked if I had a pass.  "No sir, can I pay you now and I showed him the card for the home-stay? He said, with a sweet smile"no mame we will take you home" How kind, a free ferry trip on the backwaters in the moonlight with nice people. The ferry usually arrives at its final destination before night fall. There were some very narrow passages, not to mention sand banks. It took about 5 hours to get home. I loved it! The moon was still pretty full and bright. Some beautiful fishing boats along the river banks.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Birthday celebrations continue through dance, music and ritualized theatre.

"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate." Oprah Winfrey

Om Namah Shiva!

I am still celebrating! It's Lord Shiva's birthday today - the 10th of January. Thus the celebration of lights, dance, music and laughter continue.

It is the 10th and 11th of January and I am still at my family estate home-stay in the backwaters near Kollam in Kerala, India. I finished the beautiful backwater adventure for my birthday and arrived back to the home-stay in the morning. That evening on a full moon, I was blessed to be invited to the local temple to celebrate the birth of Lord Shiva. He is revered all over India. What a party, complete with fireworks, music, puja (special prayers with flowers, incense, fruits etc.). Since my birthday was the day before, I was feeling pretty special.

Who is Lord Shiva? To recap: Lord Shiva represents the aspect of the Supreme Being (Brahman of the Upanishads - India Spiritual writings) that continuously dissolves to recreate the cyclic process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation of the universe. He is the third member of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Lord Brahma (the creator) and Lord Vishnu (the protector).

The words associated with Lord Shiva are often destroyer and destruction, but the true significance of his cosmic role is often not understood. The creation sustains itself by a delicate balance between the opposing forces of good and evil. When this balance is disturbed and sustenence of life becomes impossible, Lord Shiva dissolves the universe for creation of the next cycle so that unliberated souls will have another opportunty to liberate themselves from bondage with the physical world. Thus, Lord Shiva protects the souls from pain and suffering that would be caused by a dysfuctional universe. In analogous cyclic processes, winter is essential for spring to appear and the night is necessary for the morning to follow.

Lord Shiva is also the Lord of mercy and compassion. He protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, greed and anger. He grants boons, bestows grace and awakens wisdom in his devotees. Since the tasks of Lord Shiva are numerous, he cannot be symbolized on one form. For this reason, images of Shiva vary significantly. Lord Shiva lives at Mt. Kashi near Varanasi, the City of Light. Although, he seems to be following me wherever I go.

Lord Shiva is also the Master of yoga. The three matted locks on the head of this Lord convey the idea that integration of the physical, mental and spiritual energies is the ideal of yoga. And, he is a great role model.

Walking down the road to the temple was a glittering sight to behold. Lit up with oil lamps, it was like I was on top of one large birthday cake. Thanks Shiva for helping me celebrate my 50th in a special way. Inside the temple grounds there were many beautiful women wearing their colorful saris. Children were dressed in their finest. They are all so friendly. Since I was one of the only white people among thousands, the children were curious. So polite. They ask many questions. The main are “What is you good name, mame?” "Which country you come from?" "How many children you have?""Are you married?" "Do you like India?"

A group of young men were gracious hosts and took me deep inside the Shiva Temple for a blessing. Again, I was the only white person invited inside and took this as an honor and a great blessing for my 50th birthday. Not to mention my family, friends and peace for the world. Shiva you have a tall order. Celebrate, celebrate and celebrate! Kerala is a magical place for these colourful festivals and events.

Later that same evening, I was also invited to a very very very special, magical and rare event.

I was able to witness one of the innumerable ancient rituals - ritualized theatre - that plays an important and unique role in the cultural life of the region. I am in the south but for this one night a group from deep in the north of Kerala were performing an ancient ritual loosely known as "Theyyam". This included bhuta (spirit or hero worship) trance dance and enactments of legendary events as well as oracular pronouncements. It continued throughout the night. I made it until 10pm...that was enough for me. As a living cult with centuries old traditions, ritual and custom, it embraces almost all castes and classes of Hindu religion in the region. The term Theyyam is a corrupt form of daivam or God. It is a rare combination of dance and music and reflects important features of a tribal culture. People at these districts consider Theyyem as God and they get blessings from Theyyam. It is rare to see this theatre dance let alone in the south of Kerala. There were only a select few invited. I was an honored guest of one of the members of the group.

The role of the Theyyam performer passes from father to son. They are usually from lower castes, but during the ritual, a Brahmin (priest) will honor the deities they represent, so the status of each individual is reversed and they become the priests. During the performance several dancers will be involved, but only one at a time may sit on the chair of the deity and become possessed.

I was blessed to go behind the scenes to witness the creation of the masks, makeup and presentation process for this rare event. All of the materials they use are natural products. Coconut paste is being used on the young man below.

Tomorrow I head out to visit Amma (Mother) the hugging saint.

Sit in Grace.

I send blessings and clear white light. Valma ji

“By bringing about a change in our outlook toward things and events, all phenomena can become sources of happiness.” Dalai Lama

Friday, January 9, 2009

Kerala Backwater Birthday!

"Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do.
There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth." Rumi

I am feeling blessed and appreciate so much the gift of BEING, with courage, love, peace, appreciation, harmony, curiosity and adventure. Today is my 50th birthday and I am spending it on a small rice boat cruising the backwaters of Kerala. Yes, I am even learning to play guitar. Fortunately, my crew did not know the difference and they would please me with a smile. A friend that I met in the Phool Chatti ashram taught me a song that I really like called "World Peace starts with Peace Inside." My crew seemed to like it!

The backwaters of Kerala are a bewildering labyrinth of shimmering waterways composed of lakes, canals, rivers and rivulets. It is lined with dense tropical greenery and preserves rural Keralan lifestyles that are completely hidden from the outside world. Besides the spiritual pursuits, witnessing local culture was big on my list. This is a fantastic way to witness it.

Views change from narrow canals and dense vegetation to open vistas and dazzling green paddy fields. Homes, farms, churches, mosques and temples are glimpsed among the trees. I have seen many birds including the colourful kingfisher, green parakeets, white crane, and my all time favourite - the palas fishing eagle (Kite) with its red wings and white bald head. They are in abundance soaring over the water ways looking for fish.

Daily life continues both on the water and the palm fringed shorelines. Families subsist on tiny pockets of land, with just enough room for a simple house, yard and a boat, and bathe and wash their clothes - sometimes their buffaloes too - at the water's edge. Powered both by gondolier - like boatmen with poles - and by sail, kettu vallams glide past laden with heavy weight cargoes and fishermen work from rowing boats or operate massive Chinese nets on the shore.

An abundance of coconut trees at improbable angles form shady canopies and occasionally we pass under simple curved bridges.

The backwaters is immortalized as the setting for Arundhati Roy's Booker - prize winning novel "The God of Small Things." Add this to your book list for sure.

I was treated and worshipped as the goddess that I am. Three boatmen treated me royally with fruits, fantastic authentic Kerelan foods including fresh caught fish, curry, rice and a host of spices. Lots of ginger, garlic and cumin for sure.

We travelled into the backwaters stopping for lunch then a small rest. Later in the day we parked the boat and I was picked up by a small dug out canoe type boat with my own Gondolier who took me throughout the very narrow channels.

I have never felt such peace. The sounds of the monks chanting, smell of the fruits including pineapple, mangoes, papayas, bananas and spices ...pepper, cardamon, all spice...the list goes on.

That evening, we anchored in the backwater area surrounded by the jungle. My crew made sure that the boat was turned so I could sit perched on my mattress playing guitar and witnessing a great sunset.

For dinner, the cook prepared extra authentic dishes so that I could have a taste of all that he had to offer. He thought this was better than a birthday cake.
Bed was early with arrival back to my home-stay family estate by 9:30 in the morning.

A truly memorable experience and one that I will take with me forever.
When you know the Self, there is only Bliss. And a smile is, after all, a natural expression of that bliss.

A gift: "Only for the heart can you touch the sky" Rumi

With much peace and joy Valma ji

About Me

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I have created this amazing life, attracting incredible women into my space. All of these women are unique and ready to live their real life too. My definition of success is like a river flowing with freedom, magical adventure, creativity, curiosity and recognition. My personal mission is to travel and create an enlightened world by spreading the light of consciousness. Everything that I choose to BE, DO and HAVE meet this mission and every day in every way I remember who I really am. I love my life!