Darkness in Paradise

I read something today about being in darkness. It struck me. “Fall in love with the moon”, it said.

There is beauty all around. Not only in the obvious breathtaking views and warm, easygoing island lifestyle. But also in the scariest of the snakes and spiders, in the depths of the lonely jungle, and in the spaces in cultural differences.

My 8 year old daughter Leila says to me that the Gods live in her heart, but that the demons do too. Underneath the Gods. So I tell her that they all need space, the angry, disgusted, jealous, and sad beings too, just as the joyful, kind, and pleasant ones do.

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I can’t wait to attend what I can of Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor’s retreat at Samahita this March and April. Richard often tells us stories from Indian mythology. He tells the story of the churning of the oceans, of the gods (devas) and the demons (asuras).

The gods and the demons battle to get the amrita (nectar of immortality) out of the oceans of milk. They churn one of Shiva’s serpents, Vasuki, around Mount Mandara. Vishnu advices the devas to hold on to the tail side of the snake, the proud asuras choose the head.  The demons being at the head side of the serpent inhaled poisonous fumes that Vasuki the serpent breathed out and they were weakened.

The two sides pull back and forth around mount Mandara which collapses in the middle of the story due to the incredible strength used, and is quickly held up by an incarnation of Vishnu – Kurma (the great turtle).

The gods and the demons churn like they would butter. A number of things came out of this process, including haalahala a devastating poison, amrita the nectar of immortality, the goddess Lakshmi, Chandra the moon, Dhanvatari the physician of the Gods and so on.

The gods and the demons prayed to Shiva to save them from the poison – the haalahala. Shiva took it into his mouth and held it in his throat. He didn’t swallow it. It was so strong that his neck turned blue. Hence one of Shiva’s names is Neelakantha (blue throated one).

The gods and the demons faught over the the amrita (nectar of immortality). Vishnu in the form of Mohini the enchantress tricks the asuras to obtain it and distributes it to the devas.

The devas needed the asuras to obtain the amrita. The asuras needed the devas. There is constant churning going on in our inner lives. And it is needed to progress, to evolve.

With proper guidance and good choices, understanding, compassion and love can come out of this inner work.

There’s a larger than life size statue depicting this story in the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok!

 

The Magical Unicorns: A Poem by Leila Rose Kassar

She sat on the bed and was rehearsing something. All of a sudden she recited this poem of hers. Leila is quite the dramatic one!

Proud mummy moment:

A poem by Leila Rose Kassar

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The Magical Unicorns

High above the ground,
I sailed.
Helplessly. Helplessly.
Floating along in my abandoned boat.
Help! Help!
In the blink of an eye,
They appeared.

Elegantly flying across the sky.
But, what were they?
Gracefully spreading magic
Through the air.
As serene as a moonlit river,
Like rays in the water.
Their horns,
Colourful, magical, and glittery.

I didn’t know where I was going,
Yet, I didn’t care.

 

An Evening Together

My children continuously ask me to write about them on my blog. They look at old posts from a few years ago and find their stories funny and intriguing.

At this point though I am reluctant to go into detail, out of respect for their privacy. I am sure they’ll come back to me one day as young adults to complain about what I might write about them via this outlet 😉

They are now 8, still full of questions, the beginnings of little emotional drama, fights, and deepening friendships both between themselves and with others.

They asked specifically that I write about a lovely, simple family moment we shared yesterday – an evening on the beach competing who could throw stones into the sea the farthest, collecting bright, colourful, almost perfectly shaped sea shells, and walking in the breeze as the sun set. We ate pizza, drank wine, soda water, and juices.

Most of all it was a special moment being together, and importantly – present.

AE145D59-8216-440C-BD1F-8F64B0943DEDThe children sense it when we are around, especially when the gadgets are put away, that we are not in between chats with friends miles away or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Nothing wrong with that, there is so much power in the technology we now have in accessing our family, friends, news and ideas, but it’s quite detrimental when we multitask on the phone while trying to engage with the kids. I do it much too often.

I try to be compassionate with myself,  knowing how hard it is to change habits. I try to take the time for myself everyday, to share moments with Maher regularly, to take time to connect with my people on the phone, and then exclusively spend time with the kids.

It’s all part of the practice.

I know when it’s working. It’s those rare moments that just feel right, when the underlying anxiety fades away.

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As much as my kids enjoy the time together, they are already asking “Why do we have to go out for dinner ‘the four of us’? Why don’t you and papa go out alone and let us stay home and watch Netflix?”

And yes, we have started doing that a little more frequently, going out just the two of us. The kids are growing up, and like a wise woman said to me yesterday after I shared this story with
her, “I hope you, mum and dad, have something meaningful to do when the nest is empty. That time is coming soon it seems!”

 

 

Stories in Drawings

image Leila’s interpretation: Mama is carrying Rahul and I am jealous. Papa is next to me and there is a heart in the middle. (Did you see I drew a heart!?) Roman is a baby, and Mina is also a baby.

For the Brothers

This August full moon, it’s down to recycling my Raksha bandan post from two years ago.

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Raksha Bandan – Bond of Protection

When I lived in Zambia my family celebrated Raksha Bandan, a North Indian festival that honours the love between sisters’ and brothers’. It falls on a full-moon in August every year.

My parents, aunts and uncles took a day off work, we a day off school. We wore traditional Indian clothes and jewelery, and gathered at one if the homes.
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My mum, aunts and I picked out beautiful rakhees weeks in advance. There is a range of choice, from simple threads to more extravagant ones with mirrors and gold fringes. A few years ago there was one that played a popular Bollywood song. This year the fashionable rakhees have green, red, and shiny diamond-like stones on them.

I always chose the simplest threads and tied one around each of my brother’s and “cousin-brother’s” wrists. This gesture was to symbolise my love for them. In return my brothers’ had the duty of protecting me. From what, I wasn’t always sure.

After I tied the rakhee, we hugged each other. I always whispered an awkward, “What are we doing guys? Do we need this string to symbolise our feelings?”

I was the pain-in-the-ass, no fun girl who wasn’t into rituals, or for that matter, kitsch Bollywood dance because as a classical Indian dancer, Bollywood dances were corrupt versions of the real thing.

So, back to the hugging, after that we fed each other Indian sweets that my mum and aunts had prepared over the last week or two. In return, the brothers’ proudly offered me envelopes stuffed with notes.

Next was my mum and aunts’ turn. They tied rakhees around their “cousin-brother’s” wrist. He was the only one in Lusaka. They sent the others theirs in the mail, without fail.

My dad received his two rakhees by post, usually in good time. Since his sisters lived elsewhere it was my job to tie them. I got two envelopes from him as well.

Once it was all done, we’d have a big meal, and spend the rest of the day together.

When I left Zambia at 16, I forgot all about Raksha Bandan. One July my mum called to remind me about it. She asked if I’d sent all the boys a rakhee. I replied that I hadn’t so she quickly bought some on my behalf.

On the full-moon day, she called me. My little brother had refused to wear the rakhee since it wasn’t an initiative of mine. I was taken-aback. I had no idea that this really meant anything to him, or to any of them.

I immediately apologised, and ever since, I’ve made a special effort. I don’t always send them a rakhee in the mail, but I call or at least email.

This year, my mum only “reminded” me about it yesterday. There is no way I can get them rakhees in time. Phone calls will be in order, and a promise of more planning and organising for the years to come.

In my mum’s typically thoughtful and unimposing manner, she mentioned, by the way, “I’ve sent you a rakhee that L can tie around R’s wrist, if you guys want to do that of course.” I can’t wait to see the mini-rakhee.

My brothers are dearer to me than I can express. I do in fact feel safe, supported and strong when they are around.

So why not have a special day that celebrates the bond between sisters and brothers.

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Raksha Bandan This Yeara

Raksha Bandan – Our Version

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This morning – Our version – two rakhees, one each.
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