Ah, Lakshmi. Her tender smile falls upon me lovingly as she offers a lotus flower direct to my heart. She is the heart of all hearts. Her essence radiates grace and beauty to all those who simply stop to smell the fragrance of her lotus flowers.
Over the years, Lakshmi has taught me much about our relationship with the divine feminine power of abundance, harmony and balance. When we have Lakshmi, we have everything we need for a beautiful life.
Some people thought I was reckless while others thought I was crazy. I thought I might be both. Normally a very practical and rational person, I had no idea what I was doing but I felt that the longest journey of my life was finally commencing. This was the journey from the head to the heart.
As the consort of Vishnu, the Sustainer, Lakshmi is the goddess of sustainability. She is the energy who preserves all life. Lakshmi is seen as the nourishing, cooling power of the Soma, or moon-nectar, and the waters of life. Representing fertility, growth and regeneration, she is renewal, sweetness and the blossoming or unfolding of life itself.
Draped in a red sari, bedecked with gold ornaments, flanked by white elephants, and seated on a lotus with pot in hand - the image of Lakshmi adorns most Hindu homes and business establishments. She carries lotus’ in two hands and showers gold coins with another, symbolizing her capacity to nourish and bless. She holds the promise of material fulfillment and contentment. She is described as restless and whimsical. Yet, she is also maternal with her arms always raised, ready to to grant us her graces.
As Sri Aurobindo’s wife, the Mother, once stated:
“Lakshmi throws out the spell of intoxicating sweetness of the divine; to be close to her is a profound happiness and to feel her within the heart is to make existence a rapture and a marvel: grace, charm and tenderness flow out from her like light from the sun and whenever she fixes her wonderful gaze, or lets fall the loveliness of her smile, the soul is seized and made captive and plunged into the depths of an unfathomable bliss”.
When we trust in Lakshmi and feel her essence around us and within us, we simply know that life will prosper and our dreams will unfold into reality. I was not quite sure yet what I was creating on this magical piece of land, yet my heart kept urging me to continue what I had started. We began building sustainable structures to house volunteers and explored the concepts of Permaculture and yogic philosophy. An experiment in deep green yoga had begun.
In Tantric philosophy, it is the active feminine energy, the Shakti’s, which act in this world carrying out the cosmic function of their masculine counterparts. Lakshmi represents all the divine qualities of auspiciousness: good fortune, loving kindness, prosperity, health, beauty, well-being, vitality and radiance. For millennia, Lakshmi has been worshiped for abundant harvests, fertile lands, material wealth and comfort, success, good fortune and spiritual abundance.
The popularity of Lakshmi can be gauged by her ancient and sacred name—Shri. Shri is written atop most documents and spoken before addressing a god, a teacher, a holy man or any revered individual. The word evokes among other things: grace, affluence, abundance, auspiciousness, and authority. When the word is spoken or written, an aura of holiness is established. Whatever follows the word is imbued with divine blessing. Married men and women are addressed as Shriman and Shrimati as they have Lakshmi’s blessings to harness the wealth of the world to support family and sustain society.
Similar to Tantric thought, within the Shri Vaishnava tradition, Vishnu is understood to be powerless without Lakshmi. One tale tells us that Lakshmi and Vishnu were manifesting as the deities of a temple in Varanasi called Jaganatha. It was a somewhat elite temple in which only members of the higher castes were allowed to enter. One night during the festival of Diwali, Lakshmi decided to visit all of the untouchables in the town who were not allowed within the temple to offer blessings and food to all of those who had lit a candle or offered mantras to her, as well as to those who had not.
When Vishnu heard that she had been visiting the untouchables, he became very angry and forbade her from visiting their homes again. The normally dutiful and submissive Lakshmi rebelled and left the temple to live with a community of untouchable sweepers. This impoverished community began to flourish in her presence: food began to grow and people began to prosper. Meanwhile, Vishnu’s temple mysteriously became impoverished. No one brought offerings anymore and the forest around the temple began to wither. Vishnu finally had to travel to the community of the untouchables to beg her pardon and asked her to come home. Lakshmi agreed only if he promised never to restrict her impulses to offer blessings and graces.
Lakshmi’s power resides in the inner kingdom of the heart. She manifests inwardly as a subtle trust in the goodness of the universe. She is the feeling of contentment and confidence, the heart-felt sense of self-worth. It is from this space of inner abundance that the real magic of Lakshmi can be discovered. When we feel whole, full and complete, we are able to call our dreams into being.
As Vishnupriya Lakshmi (literally means beloved of Vishnu), she is known as the perfect wife. Her essence is the inner balance at the heart of partnership relationships. Those relationships which teach us to nourish our relations, to mediate consciously, and nurture deep compassion and empathy within one another. This understanding allows us to live a life of integrity. Knowing that our needs will always be met, we can give and receive freely, allowing energy to flow and exchange in all of our relationships.
For me, this has been one of the most powerful lessons. All of life flows. It is an endless dance of energy being drawn in and out, transforming our experience into higher levels of awareness and connection. When we realize that we are a part of this dance, rather than needing to control it, we can let go of any need to hold onto things, whether material or conceptual in nature. When I finally let go of how my mind thinks things should be, grace flows in and guides the next steps. This means that energy does not get stuck anywhere. Even when I am unsure of what’s next, I trust that the wisdom of the heart will guide me.
Building a community rooted in yoga and Permaculture gave me endless opportunities to explore trusting in the heart. The very day we finally had our first cabin finished, after waiting months for the earthen and bees wax floor to dry before being able to install the windows, the brother of a dear soul sister I had studied yoga in India with magically appeared to come and be our first volunteer. I breathed out a long sigh of gratitude for such an auspicious sign. By the end of the week, all four beds in this little cabin were full of eager volunteers. I trusted all was going to unfold and be okay. Along the way, every time we have needed help, guidance, or the advice of an expert, the right people have simply manifested into our community. We are guided by Spirit here, and the spirits of this land are particularly powerful.
Lakshmi taught me how to manifest a reality of beauty, awe and wonder. I began listening to the wisdom of the heart and living a life of sweet abandon. The worries of the mind were no longer the driving force of my reality. The existence of anxiety, fear of the unknown and unstable bank balances were no longer challenges. Now I trust in the wisdom of the heart, and the path that is unfolding from this place of wonder and contentment, knowing that the abundance of the divine feminine will always be with us when I tap into the fullness of the heart. As we embrace the energy of Lakshmi, we come to know in the fullness of our hearts that we can manifest any reality that we wish for. When we feel challenged or facing uncertainty at the material or spiritual levels, Lakshmi can help to restore a sense of balance and harmony. Her bija mantra, seed syllable or her unique divine energy, is Shrim. This can be chanted alone or as part of an invocation mantra Om Shrim Maha Lakshmiyai Namaha. Whether we want to call in abundance, luck, harmony, radiance, contentment, compassion, empathy, pleasure, happiness or support, Lakshmi can guide us back into the graces of the heart.
Lakshmi showed me how to follow my dreams. This manifestation has become The Yoga Forest, a Conscious Living Retreat Community and Transformational Learning Center. The Center is now two years old and I'm ever expanding the journey into trusting in the heart. This is the journey that never ends: from the head to the heart. It is a path, not a goal. It's not to say that their won't be challenges or even suffering at times but what we won't experience is regret. The challenges we face simply expand our capacity to love and experience more fullness. As we learn to live from the heart, we dance along the most fulfilling path, living a life of balance and universal harmony.
Om Shrim Maha Lakshmiyai Namaha.