Sacred Images, Sacred Objects

Today is December 19, 2009, and here in Roanoke, Virginia, we were blessed with a beautiful snowstorm. Sixteen inches! Lots of snow, by our standards.

Do you see the photograph? It is from our yard. It is a picture of Saint Francis, Patron Saint of Animals; he resides in our garden. Usually, come wintertime, he resides in our garage, protected from the elements. This year, we forgot to put him away, out of the weather.

Doesn’t he have the most beautiful, peaceful face? Isn’t it interesting that the snow did not cover it?

This does not surprise me. There are many events on record where sacred objects have gone unharmed, even in the most dangerous of circumstances. It brings me back to my days working as the office manager of a restoration construction company. We specialized in fire and water damage.

One Christmas season, we restored a home that had suffered a very serious fire; I remember the project manager showing me photographs of the home. They had a nativity scene displayed on a card table against a wall; the fire and smoke visibly went around the nativity – seriously, you looked at this photograph and could see the smoke go up and around the whole table. It was wild to look at; everything around it destroyed, burned; ruined. The nativity was untouched.

It boggled my mind at the time.

Now, I understand.

Today, as I notice our precious, uncovered Saint Francis miraculously peering out of the snow — inside, in the house, I have been busy — preparing photographs of the Kriya lineage for at least a week. Locating, procuring and printing photographs and pictures of the saints and sages who support me in my practice, so I can display them inside my small meditation space.

These saints and sages, they commune with me daily; in my meditation, my life and in my work. They are conduits for the living Divine energy that flows through me when I teach.

For some reason, it really never occurred to me to place their photos in my meditation space, even though I display their photographs prominently on a shelf in the living room.

Recently Andrea Boyd and Jeffrey Cohen of Jivamukti Yoga Charleston (SC) came to Roanoke to instruct some workshops. Mary Brown, Uttara’s Jivamukti instructor – a true conduit of the Divine, and a very dedicated student of yoga — took on the responsibility of preparing the altar for their workshop.

And oh, it was SO beautiful. See the photograph? Amazing!

Andrea and Jeffrey came and brought additional pictures of their teachers to adorn the altar. I lucked out (truly!) on a spot in the front row; and practiced for two hours before this sacred altar — adorned with fresh flowers, Ganesha (overcomer of obstacles) and photographs of the Jivamukti lineage.

As I pushed my body and mind through practices I thought not capable, I looked into the eyes of Ruth Lauer-Manenti. As I expanded my consciousness, under the expert guidance of Andrea and Jeffrey, Sharon Gannon and David Life peered from small, ornate frames. There was magic in those practices, and in those photographs.

When I have sat at the lotus feet of my beloved Guruji, there have always been photographs of Kriyanandaji and Shellyji on the altar. But only at this workshop did I realize the true power of those images. That is when I decided it was important to integrate them into my meditation space.

I sat before them today in meditation; and the energy shift was palpable.

Christians are careful not to worship graven images; and I understand that concept. We as Americans place the image of the flag everywhere; but not always with respect and understanding.

I saw an American flag doormat in a catalog this Summer – THINK about that symbolism.

Thoug — yes — no one wants to worship the golden idol, the ceramic goddess — UNDERSTAND that images, statues, photographs – they have “shakti” – a real energy; they have power.

During this beautiful period of waiting for the Christ-child; waiting for the Light to return; however you choose to honor the shifting of the season; remember that your photographs, your nativity scenes, your traditions and your totems; the ornaments on your tree; the photographs in your cards, the things that you elevate and honor; they have meaning; they have shakti; they have power.

Give them the respect they so lovingly deserve.

Shanti,

Jill

To Card or Not To Card

So, it’s mid-December; the crunch is on. I’ve got three young children and feel the need to make the holiday happen – there are expectations to be met, and traditions to be upheld; even as the cosmic ground shifts beneath us, as the world begins to change. (I’m sure you feel it).

Things are also busy at the Studio. The number of students this time of year is a little low, but there are gift packages to put together, the Winter Solstice celebration, gearing up for coming events.

I have come to the point in life where I realize (a little late, I might add) that I matter, too. My experience of the holiday counts. What do I want?

I want to bake LOTS of cookies – pecan tassies, Russian teacakes, sugar cookies, candy-cane cookies, mmmmmmm . . . . (always my soft spot). I want to decorate the tree – my way (loads of not matching ornaments, colorful lights; Martha Stewart would NOT approve). I want to spent time with friends, having tea, catching up. I want to purchase gifts that are meaningful and useful (and I want to do it quickly and efficiently; I do NOT want to spend time shopping).

I want to ponder the birth of Jesus; spend time exploring my relationship with him and the Blessed Mother; and continue to reconcile the wonder of His divine love to my life, as I live it, today.

This Thanksgiving, I made a plan. And a resolution. Need to simplify . . . so I decided not to send holiday cards this year.

They have always hung over my head, year after year. I was thinking, how great to have no pressure to produce a perfect photograph (okay, any REASONABLE photograph) of my three children. No pressure to locate the cards left over from last year (um, seriously; where are they? I’m a logical person; but why, oh why, aren’t they in my Christmas box?) No pressure to write our names over and over; no pressure to jot a note, or to write one of those little newsletter things.

Such a relief to let go of one more holiday requirement – er, um, I mean, tradition.

But now, cards from friends and family have begun to arrive in our mail.

And I’m so grateful to receive them! Beautiful photographs of my friends and their children. It is wonderful to see those babies growing and changing from year to year. And my friends, too! Not so young, but just as beautiful as ever. They are happy; they are well; they are living their lives, unfolding in their purpose. It is joyful to read even the the most brief of updates.

So now, at the last minute, I am re-thinking my plan. How can I repay these people for the happiness, the joy, the news that they have sent to me?

I think, perhaps — maybe — I’ll just send a couple cards – a select few.

So — how do I choose???

Some cards come from my oldest and dearest friends; I never want to break that link. Some come from new friends. Those who know me as I am now are just as precious.

I glance at the calendar; there’s a little break in my schedule in February!

Perhaps, I’ll send Valentines.

I hope that you enjoy the blessings of the season.

If your heart feels hard, give even the smallest gift to someone in need. There is no greater blessing than to be able to give.

Shanti,

Jill