Light over dark. Good over evil. Today marks the festival of Diwali and thousands upon thousands of people will be celebrating across the world.
This year is the first year I am celebrating Diwali in India! It feels like a magical time for some reason. Perhaps it’s the lights dripping from every corner of every street and house at night or perhaps it’s the family feeling I get staying with family…. OR perhaps it’s that I’ve always dreamt of being here on this day. That I’ve celebrated the holiday in my own special way, lighting lamps at home or trying to find sparklers in late autumn in New York…. Perhaps it’s because during my years in college, I celebrated with the South Asian Students Association and felt more connected to my Indian heritage at that time of year, and with that group of people, than any other time. Whatever the reason may be, I am here and it feels like magic.
Yesterday morning I read in the ‘Times of India’ a little blurb about Diwali. It related darkness to the things that it becomes easy to fall in to, greed, gambling, excessive alcohol etc. and that light is attained by releasing attachment to these and other material things. One of the greatest wishes people have for each other today is for a prosperous Diwali, it is the festival that welcomes the Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Last night (and in so many of my conversations) we were talking about prosperity and how prosperity can have a different meaning for each of us. So often the ‘answer’ to attaining this ever illusive ‘light’ (personal prosperity and/or liberation from darkness) is to release attachment, to let go of a need for material or physical things. It’s an idea or a philosophy that I strive for and often don’t know how to do (I’m always asking, okok, I’m going to let go, but HOWWW???). So, on the morning of my first Diwali in India, I decided to take out my yoga mat and practice this act of releasing… Here’s what came up:
As I was reaching to touch my toes, I realized that the only way for me to actually release attachment at that moment was to have compassion. I wondered, perhaps that’s the answer! When I’m mad at myself or putting pressure on the world (or anyone, including myself) to be a certain way, I need to cultivate compassion for myself, for others and for the world. I realized that if I have compassion for myself, I would say, ‘the muscles are tight because it’s 630 am and I just did 20 hours of flying. It’s ok to not reach as far in this moment as I may have in other moments.’ I practiced inhaling the darkness, and exhaling light, hope and peace into the world. In that moment, and this one, I practice being fully present by focusing on my breath, focusing on paying attention to the connection of my intentions to my actions and listening deeply to others. In these ways (in addition to lighting lamps and performing pujas with family) I am letting in the light and releasing the darkness (no matter how often it slips in).
A Happy and Prosperous Diwali to everyone!