Love Yourself

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

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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!