It is painfully obvious to anyone who has studied any history, modern or ancient, that humanity seems to require convulsing in a cataclysm every 70 to 80 years, and that each generation has to learn by excruciating experience the deeper meanings of freedom, repression, and the tug-of-war between the cosmic light and dark forces ever-grappling for control.
But India’s great sages buried powerful truths and teachings in the narratives of their greatest epics, and these have the power to help prepare and sustain those feeling disempowered in times like these.
Since November 8th , not a single day has gone by without delivering some new blow to order, decency and integrity.
Those dismayed over the past year, watching the rise to power of one who indisputably embodies so many of the qualities of adharma (unrighteousness), previously attributed to various demons of scripture, myth and human history, may do well to wrestle with the cycles shown us in timeless texts and stories of India.
The themes that pervade the great stories can lend an empowering context to what is, by all other measures, a stupidly unnecessary repetition of history being played out here in the US and abroad.
Some argue (or voted for) this attack on “the old order”, seeing it as necessary, and taking comfort in viewing the breakdown of established orders as a pre-requisite to the arrival of a Golden Age. That’s a belief held by people on both sides of the electorate. I will leave all the conversations about the dissolution of unsustainable institutions and the breaking apart of the old order to other writers, as it is already much-discussed in countless blogs before and after the election.
The Wars of the Gods & Demons
The struggle between forces of light and forces of darkness is recognized in all ages and religions. The Bible speaks of the endless wars between “powers & principalities”; the wars of Angels and Demons.
In the Vedic tradition, the same is reflected in the unending cycles of wars between the Devas & Asuras (demigods & demons).
Even our beloved 20th Century myth-makers, J.R.R. Tolkein (Lord of the Rings) and George Lucas (Star Wars)—both of whom knew more than a scosche about world religions and archetypes—recognized that the forces of darkness are never completely eradicated.
When defeated, the evil energy, though cast out of power, bides its time in hiding, regrouping and slowly gaining influence till it bursts forth in a newly empowered, newly awful form. It was no accident that the first Star Wars movie was followed by The Empire Strikes Back.
The Great Demons of India’s Puranas (epic stories) are very reliable. Brilliant and talented; they enter each story endowed with one or another special quality of strength, intelligence, or fortune of birth.
Always, they have arrogant ego in plentiful supply. That’s a good part of what makes them Demons.
There is much talk in the Puranas of the Demon culture, in which things normally considered to be against dharma (righteous behavior) are accepted as norms for Demonic values. In one of the central creation episodes, demons are given exclusive rights over alcohol, as its proper custodians, while the divine nectar of immortality (amrita) is denied them, despite their many attempts to gain control of it.
The balance of the universe depends upon each force in creation knowing its proper realm, function and its limits. That the Demons exist at all is simply a part of creation; a necessary part. That God loves them, too, impartially, is also a part. The Devas, (literally “light beings”) are half-brothers to the Demons.
The problem always begins when some Demon or other begins to cross his limits.
Limits are a big thing in Vedic teaching.
For example, the ocean doesn’t cross its limits. When it does, as in a tsunami, vast destruction ensues. Keeping within the limits of one’s allotted role in life is a major part of righteousness, and figuring out one’s unique dharma (righteous response to any situation) is based on the duties ascribed to one’s roles in life combined with the situation at hand, and is the subject of some thousands of pages of teachings.
The Quest for Immortality & Power
Any self-respecting great Demon performs endless austerities to win the grace of God and ask for a boon. In some texts it is written that they may sit in tapas (austerities of worship) for thousands of years.
Let’s just say that they know a thing or two about the Law of Attraction, and concentrating on a goal.
When Brahma or Shiva eventually responds, manifesting in order to grant their desire, the Demons’ requests always start from the same place:
“Make me immortal!”
“That’s off the table, ask for something else” comes the reply.
The Demon thinks hard and, impressed with his own cleverness, uses pretzel logic to ask for some set of conditions that guarantees he can never be killed; or he asks for a special weapon that will make him invincible—or he asks for both.
By demon logic, if invincible, he can’t be killed, thus, he can never die. And, if invincible, he also gets to conquer all of creation! Everything in the material universes will be his!
“Tathastu,” God replies, “So be it.”
Sometimes, even when the Demon doesn’t ask for a special weapon, he gets one anyway, like a little bonus, because God is pleased with the intensity of his devoted worship.
Also, because God plays the long game, and has a grand sense of karmic humor. Tathastu! Hahaha. Go enjoy yourself.
Hahahah, I’ve outwitted God! the Demon crows to himself.
Triumph tastes sweet! During his Victory Tour, the Demon wastes no time trying out his newly acquired powers by terrorizing everyone for yojanas around (A yojana, as you may guess, is a very long distance).
A Golden Age—For Demons, That Is
When a Demon takes control, a few things are a standard part of the script(ure).
The Demon may actually be a fervent follower of some form of God, (after all that’s how he got his powers), but he realizes that freedom of worship will lead to trouble. Worship of anyone other than the Demon’s god or, better yet, the Demon himself, is quickly forbidden.
“I’m the Greatest Demon who has ever lived!” is his cry. His courtiers need to affirm that loudly and often, and woe unto anyone who dares say otherwise.
The Demon sets to work conquering earth, heaven and the nether worlds. And conquer he does.
Truth gets turned upside down. Asat (untruth) becomes the new version of Sat (truth). At least to the Demons, who operate in their own culture.
Persecution of the wise, the sages, is a prime requirement. The sages hold Sat, truth and wisdom, and truth itself must be crushed. Especially, sages must not be allowed to pray, as a Demon knows very well that authentic spiritual power can be used against him.
Absolute fealty is required, and the Demon looks to make vassals of all near and far. He’s usually spoiling for a fight, and wants to test his mettle against all other powers.
For a time—often a very long time—Demons enjoy their ascendancy. The Great Demons even knock the reigning demigods out of heaven.
Watching the the formerly powerful eat crow is a necessary a part of the mix. Ravan, one of the greatest of all Demons evah, kept the presiding gods of the nine planets prisoners of his will. In some versions he keeps the god of Death in chains. Humiliation is a tool to be employed when the currently powerful begin to cross their limits, or in this case, disagree with the Demon king, or imply that he’s not, mirror, mirror on the wall, the greatest of them all!
Much blood flows, and in the Puranas, the Demons enjoy many hearty laughs at the expense of the suffering masses, and especially the suffering light forces. (Mastering the arrogant laugh is an important part of Demon Training).
Now it’s the turn of the Devas to roam in exile, to be humbled, to wait again for their moment, even to be forced into hiding.
And there’s nothing they, or anyone, can do about it.
No, not until the story has played itself out; not until it’s Time.
Even the divine incarnations, the Avatars, the savior heroes, do not appear early on in the stories to assist the gods or to help mankind in restoring balance to creation; not until the suffering is acute beyond measure; not until the demonic force has consumed its karmic fuel; not until it’s Time.
Eventually, inexorably, the wheel of karma turns. What you give out comes back to you.
The accumulated bad karmas come home to roost, and the Demon “gets theirs”. The magic boon itself, for which he worked so hard and which he exploited against his perceived enemies so vigorously, turns on him. Like a drug, that which gave him power becomes the root cause of his downfall and destruction.
(Note to self: Don’t ask for boons.)
When his arrogance and evil deeds have weakened all his powers, the Devas —who may have had a few lessons of their own to learn—get Cosmic Assistance, and the Great Demon meets his spectacular end.
And as is the case with Goddess Durga, some Demons can only be taken out by a female.
Take Your Place on the Great Mandala as It Moves Through Your Brief Moment of Time
With many variations on a theme, age after age, yuga after yuga—and yugas are very lonnnggggg periods of time—the Great Demons take their turn at holding sway over creation.
For those of us so stunningly and unexpectedly thrown out of power, we do not know if this particular exile that has come upon us (and our counterparts in other countries) will be 4 years, 8 years, or a yuga. We don’t know if the threats to the way of life we value will be annihilated in part or in full, slowly or quickly. We just know it’s coming.
The recently dis-empowered are handling their exile by pointing fingers at each other, accusing, throwing intellectual tantrums, indulging in arrogant remarks and self-recriminations, using purity tests, scrambling, and chaotically, searching for the next great leader, and girding for a fight that, as yet has no cohesive center.
That’s part of the story too.
All the great Hindu epics deal with this theme: Out of the Palace, Into the Forest.
Those thrown into forest exile undergo a crucible of transformation. They, too, have to bide time.
Just as the forces of darkness do not bide their time idly, so we can learn from the actions of those who have passed their exiles profitably.
This is not to say: “Give up in apathy; wait your turn passively; nothing can be done about it.”
This is not to say: “Give in to the Demon.”
This is about broadening the context for dealing with the coming years from “how can this be happening” to riding the energy of the stages of a cycle of creation.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
That Bible verse is not something said at the zenith of one’s power, but in the times when power feels utterly lost.
Inhale and exhale, dark and light, the Great Wheel turns.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Out of the Palace, Into the Forest: How to Spend an Exile
©2016 Rev. Nettie M. Spiwack
Recently, I coerced one of my Ramayana buddies into watching the original Ramayana tv series produced by Ramanand Sagar in the late 80’s; a series that revived a whole consciousness and national pride, and had far-reaching effects on what is offered on Indian television today. Having seen at least seven different tv versions of the Ramayana, some of them numerous times, this most recent viewing confirms for me that while there are others I have enjoyed and even “loved”, this original is in a league of its own.
I did not discover the plethora of Indian tv serials available on YouTube and DVD until just about three years ago. I’ve been a lost cause ever since, taking a few other with me down the rabbit hole. We have a secret club (well, not really secret, but somewhat embarrassed at publicly admitting our enthusiasm) exchanging links to yet another subtitled series, and we have been known to shuttle entire sets of DVDs containing hundreds of episodes back and forth from one end of the US to another.
When I have confessed this obsession to various Indian friends young and old, it usually evokes a “you’re kidding — you?” laughing response. That’s generally followed by full disclosure of their own obsessions with similar series.
Those of my own generation, (50’s and above) may then share stories such as the one I heard recently from a woman friend: how excited she was when, as a young woman, she happened to be in a hotel restaurant at the time that the entire cast of B.K. Chopra’s Mahabharat came in. Even telling the tale 25 years later her face lit up with youthful excitement. Or I heard a young father’s enthusiastic recounting of how he recently watched Mahadev online with his children and they used the opportunity after every episode to have a lively family discussion about values, morality and choices.
I hesitate to use the word mythological when describing these series, but it’s the way the genre is referred to by the tv industry.
For us, while it is entertaining for sure, it is not just entertainment. It’s a form of devotional practice—even if it does come with cardboard crowns, hunky actors and subtitles. The very last thing we do at night is to be absorbed in the “leelas of the Lord” (the divine stories of the lives of the avatars and dieties).
Listening to the stories of God’s play on the earth is one of the nine paths of devotion recommended by the great sage Narada in the Narada Sutras; that practice is the core of the Srimad Bhagavatam itself.
Of course, Narada muni probably wasn’t thinking about Mohit Raina as Shiva when he was first disclosing the devotional path, but it’s the 21st century, and there it is.
Convincing my friend to sit through many episodes of this first Ramayana was not an easy task, because it was produced when technology —and perhaps production budgets—were both relatively low. Compared to the avalanche of green-screen / Star Wars-like / Industrial-Light-&-Magic quality mythologicals that now flood Indian TV, this original Ramayana can seem primitive indeed. And some people, my friend among them, just don’t like classic movies with their slower pace and dated production values.
For those who were a part of the 80’s – 90’s Indian television-viewing population, (a group that does not include me), this Ramanand Sagar Ramayana remains the standard against which all other Ramayanas—and there are many—are measured.
For those nurtured on the current generation of shows like Devon ke Dev Mahadev or the current Siya ke Ram with their superhero physiques, stunning sets, drop-dead-gorgeous costumes and video-game-influenced special effects, it takes entirely rebooting a mindset to return to the early days of foil crowns and fully-draped females, not to mention some aging and (gasp!) flabby-by-today’s-standards actors (translation: normal people) in a couple of the famous co-starring roles.
To make an American analogy, I believe Arun Govil, whose placid demeanor and beatific half-smile immortalized his portrayal of Ram, would have about as much chance of being cast to play Ram today as Rex Harrison would have of talk-singing his way through the lead in My Fair Lady—if that musical was being premiered in 2016 instead of in 1956. No one gets cast in a major Broadway production anymore who is not a triple-threat: actor, dancer and singer capable of belting out the big notes.
Comparably, acceptable physical standards for tv and movies have radically changed in the past 15 years, in some cases sacrificing nobility of character and depth of talent for six-pack abs.
I muse that Arun, a handsome actor and very well-proportioned by 1986 standards, would no doubt need to spend three hours a day in the gym to meet current expectations for a hero, as did Mohit Raina during the 2011-2014 filming of Mahadev.
The brilliantly nuanced performance of older actor Dara Singh as Hanuman would never make it to the screen today, nor would Arvind Trivedi’s portrayal of Ravan; so much more complex than some of the blustery characterizations of later versions.
So, despite our periodically giving way to laughter at the plastic demon costumes that look like leftovers from the sale section in the back of an Oriental Trading Company catalog, it didn’t take long for us to get sucked right back into the Ramayana vortex, and to be reminded that almost none of the writing in the mythological genre today compares with the powerful level of prose in the screenplays that Ramanand Sagar himself penned—and I say that going only by the English subtitles.
I assume we all know how unreliable subtitles are in conveying the beauty and subtleties of thought of the original language. Subtitles usually represent several degrees of devolution from their source material. By now, I’ve watched enough hundreds of hours of Hindi to know when they are skimping on or changing the English flashing at the bottom of the screen. To be profoundly moved by second-rate translations says something about the power of the original.
Our current viewing has reminded me that portions of Sagar’s scripts—particularly the monologues and question/answer segments—contain philosophical wisdom of the highest order. They come across with a vibrational frequency that remains unmatched. That frequency is the difference between a line that resonates as truth, and one that simply serves up well-known platitudes. I believe it was with the attunement of someone who has imbibed and lived the truths of his dialogues that Sagar succeeded in dispersing Vedic wisdom all over the globe.
Current mythologicals, with each generation of technology, put the emphasis more and more on buff bodies, lush sets and special effects. I admit to thoroughly enjoying all those improvements. Unfortunately, much of the time, improvements in production values have come at the expense of another, higher value—the level of vibration that infused Sri Sagar’s writings in this and other subsequent productions. I am confident that sentimentality is not coloring my observation through a lens of longing for things from my youth, because my youth was spent in the Bronx, NY in a Jewish home and all things Indian were far in my future.
The philosophies Sagar spoke through the mouth of Ram or any number of his other characters are a combination of the many versions of the Ramayana he lists in the opening credits plus his own interpretation. But oh, what an interpretation!
I have come to believe that like Tulsidas, Ramanand Sagar was another incarnation of Sage Valmiki.
Tulsidas, widely believed to be a reincarnation of Valmiki, put the Ramayana into the vernacular to make it available to those who could not access the story in scholarly Sanskrit. It was much like Johannes Gutenberg taking the Bible away from the exclusive provenance of monks and putting it into the hands of the people.
Sagar likewise re-cast the story in the new vernacular—television—and made the Ramayana available again to new generations on an unprecedented scale. His Ramayana has been viewed by at least 100 million people worldwide. Some YouTube uploads, from the many people who have uploaded it, carry viewer numbers in the hundreds of thousands still. Talk about making something available to a new generation! Perhaps only George Lucas has had that level of impact on mass consciousness.
Every year or two, there is a new Ramayana plying the airwaves. Of course there is, it is an inexhaustible source of remakes and retellings, no matter how difficult some aspects of the story are for a modern woman. (I will save wrestling with that topic for another post at a later date). Ostensibly, this newest one (Siya ke Ram) tells the story from the point of view of Sita. I caught a (probably bootleg) upload on YouTube of several episodes. I had to do without subtitles; since that kind of official release may be a few years away. But the story is embedded in me such that I can watch it and figure out most of what’s happening.
Tellingly, I happened to start with an episode where Ram (presumably taking a ritual bath) rises from the river water like Venus on the Half Shell, or Esther Williams in a 1930’s musical—a gorgeous man, dripping wet and stunningly lit. I wasn’t sure if this was the Ramayana or a centerfold shoot. I know that my first association with what I was watching wasn’t exactly devotional. I laughed out loud, both enjoying it and marveling at how the edges of commercialism are pushed.
A quick visit to the series’ Facebook page has the gushings of this generation of fans, that this is the best Ramayana ever, the one they’ll remember forever and ever.
I’m sure that’s true for the audience of now. I also know that, sucker that I am for anything beautiful and artistic as this production is, that I will be on alert for when, eventually, the dvd’s will be released.
But I’m glad I saw it right in the middle of my revisiting that first, landmark Sagar series. Between that one, and the later 2008 version also produced by the Sagar clan, a standard was set in a way that I, and legions of others, will cherish…”forever and ever.”
When you chant something for years on end, whether the prayer is in a language you know or not, you’d best realize that at some point what you are asking for may well be granted.
I was just 15 in 1971, when I heard my first Sanskrit chant in a yoga class. I often quip that the only yoga pose I ever mastered was savasana, lying flat on the floor for deep relaxation in the corpse pose. What did make an indelible impression, though I had not a clue of what any of it meant, was the chanting.
One part of the chant at the beginning of class was, as I was to find out decades later, the “victory over death” prayer; the “Mahamrityumjaya Mantra“:
Om Trayambakam yajamahe sughandim pushti vardhanam urvarukamiva bandhanan mrityor mukshiya mamritat
Like many things from the teen years, it was forgotten as life moved on.
Later in life, with a renewed focus on chanting, I was re-introduced to the mantra and incorporated it into my practice, but not until I was in the lobby of a small hotel in Madurai, India, did I finally understand the meaning. On a huge yellowed wall poster was an English translation:
“OM. We worship the Three-eyed Lord Who is fragrant and Who nourishes and nurtures all beings. As the ripened cucumber is freed from its bondage (to the stalk), may He liberate us from death for the sake of immortality.”
Cucumber? Somehow, as I had chanted the sacred words thousands of times, I had never imagined vegetables to be part of the equation. I smiled at the unexpected metaphor—even as I understood it to be about releasing attachment to the world as easily as the cucumber falls into the hands of the gardener when the time is ripe.
Now, at least I knew what I was chanting.
I later learned that the chant was part of the Rudram Namakam, a long daily prayer from the Yajurveda invoking God to slay all our bad qualities.
So this particular prayer, which entered my life at 15 and was re-encountered in my 40’s, which I have repeated thousands of times, is all about asking the aspect of the Creator responsible for the destruction of illusions to free you from the iron grip of the world process as a ripe soul, so that true immortality—enlightenment—may be attained.
The prayer is said to be so powerful that it helps the soul release the body at death and crossover to find its eternal abode. For this reason, when my dear friend Lila was in her last days in hospice, already unconscious, I sat with her playing endless rounds of this mantra 24 x 7 during her final three days, fulfilling her last request to me. Those of us who knew Lila are quite sure that her cucumber fell straight into the hands of her beloved Gardener.
When I moved 18 months ago from my last comfortable 4-bedroom home in the Northeast into a small bedroom in a shared house with friends in the mid-West, I was partly motivated by economic necessity. The other part was motivated by the chance to live in what unintentionally became an intentional spiritual community. All of us “Spiritual Golden Girls” are, in our own ways, committed to God-realization, by whatever name each calls it. But all also have to find new ways to generate consistent income well into the future in order to meet the basic needs of life in a world that has appeared to become, at our stage, increasingly economically unfriendly.
Around the time of my move I made humorous references to those who understood that I was shifting into the “vanaprasth” or “forest” stage of life.
According to ancient practices in Vedic times, when you finish raising your children, you leave your family and all your possessions because you recognize that, well, sic transit gloria mundi—”all things must pass”—and that includes you. If you have a spiritual goal, it’s high time to get down to business. (Or, as someone once joked to me: “Why do people start reading the Bible as they get older? Studying for finals!”).
While such lofty goals were not exactly the motivation for the move, when the option presented itself, not only did I recognize the practicality, some part of me realized that a bigger force was at work.
For as long as I’ve been on a determined spiritual journey, my prayer has been the same; to attain God-realization in this lifetime. One of the hallmarks of that state is total equanimity regardless of the circumstances.
The Jesuits call this “indifference”. In this context, indifference doesn’t mean “selfishly uncaring”. It means, not being invested in one side or another of an outcome; being at peace in all circumstances, however things turn out.
Most major spiritual disciplines recognize that state of being, and have lots of practices to cultivate it. Another term for indifference is “equanimity.” A quick check in with any of my house-mates will confirm that I have not yet reached this vaunted state.
Realizing Equanimity: Diamonds Form Only Under Great Pressure
The great ten-headed demon Ravana (aka Ravan) knew something about the result of indifference. In a famous incident from the epic Ramayana, he does what demons do when their ego inflates beyond all limits: he challenges God Himself. (There are many backstories enfolded in this little incident, but I’ll stick to the main points.)
Ravana, a great Shiva devotee, uses his immense strength to uproot Mt. Kailash, Shiva’s Himalayan abode, intending to carry the mountain—Lord Shiva and all—off to his island kingdom of Lanka.
Shiva responds to this display of arrogance by merely pressing down on the mountain with his big toe, trapping Ravana’s (many) hands.
But Ravana is no dummy.
He is the offspring of a great Rishi (sage) and a Demon princess. His ten heads are said to represent his mastery of every branch of knowledge. (Alas, knowledge and practice are, as we all know, very different things.)
One such piece of knowledge is that when you need to propitiate an offended diety, it is wise to sing their praises, long and loudly.
Thus, Ravan chants the beautiful poetic verses that have come down the ages, almost hypnotic in their sublime meter. In some versions, Ravana, no stranger to austerities, chants this prayer, the Shiva Tandav Stotram, for a thousand years.
Ravana conquered the three worlds of earth, heaven and the nether regions; he has untold power and wealth. Yet, when under duress, this son of a sage demonstrates that he well-understands what true freedom really looks like:
“When will I worship Lord Sadasiva (eternally auspicious God), with equal vision towards the people and an emperor, and a blade of grass and lotus-like eye, towards both friends and enemies, towards the valuable gem and some lump of dirt, towards a snake and a garland and towards varied ways of the world?”
—from the Shiva Tandav Stotram, the prayer to Lord Shiva, attributed to Ravana
Shiva—one of whose qualities is being easily pleased—not only releases and forgives the penitent Ravan; he grants him the additional boon of the mystic sword Chandrahas. The gift comes with the warning that if he ever misuses the Chandrahas for an unjust purpose, it will return to Shiva. Then, despite Ravan having won a previous boon of near-immortality, his days will be numbered.
Of note, “Chandra” means moon, and the moon is said to govern the intellect. Perhaps Shiva was giving his great devotee a sword of discrimination in one great last chance at redemption from the snares of the mind—or in his case, ten minds.
Is there any smidgen of a doubt that Ravana will soon abuse this gift and meet his end? Shiva may be “easily pleased” but when granting boons to those craving worldly power, the boons often boomerang on the petitioner, much like lottery winners who end up more destitute than before.
Ravan has become the archetype for the very worst aspects of the human ego. Despite all his great knowledge, and lots of wise counsel, he unfailingly opts for the most self-aggrandizing choice. Yet, his plea to be released is really our plea to be released from enslavement to pampering our endless likes and dislikes, and from the ever-escalating rat-race of attempting to fulfill our insatiable earthly desires.
In short, our ego-generated desires are all born of the illusion that happiness lies just around the corner in the fulfillment of “if only…”. These desires, in which we invest so much energy, petition and prayer, often constitute exactly the worst thing possible for our ultimate good—yes, even our plan to capture God and carry Him off to our own private abode so He can be our servant and answer our prayers at our convenience.
Well, so much for that idea.
It does not go unnoticed by me that the answer to Ravan’s question “When will I truly achieve equanimity…” is at least in part: “When God drops a mountain on your fingers, that’s when.”
Hmm. So back to that ripe-cucumber-falling-from-the-stalk thing.
This particular cucumber, (and I know I’m not alone here) clings stubbornly to the entanglement of her old familiar vines and remaining attachments. I may want liberation while still in the body, but, as so much of what used to constitute my world has fallen away, it appears that what is revealed is—as Caroline Myss used to tease her students—that I’d like to achieve it with some sort of recognizably comfortable life, a modicum of economic security, a good manicure and a latte from Starbucks. There’s at least an echo within me of the prayer of the young St. Augustine: “O Lord, make me chaste—but not yet!”
So many days I feel like the guy hanging off a cliff, pleading with God to rescue him. You know the joke: the voice comes from the sky: “Trust and let go!” The guy reflects for a moment and calls out: “Is anyone else there?”
Be careful what you pray for.
Dam, Dam, Dam, Dam Damaru Bhaje…
In the background, I can hear the Damaru—the drum of Shiva—as the compassionate Lord answers my lifelong prayer and does his ego-smashing Tandav right on my fingers, insistent that I give up my remaining illusions of control, security and a whole host of other things I thought I’d handled.
O Maheshwar, I like my lattes with an extra shot…
When will I be happy, living in the hallowed place near the celestial river, Ganga, carrying the folded hands on my head all the time, with my bad thinking washed away, and uttering the mantra of Lord Shiva and devoted in the God with glorious forehead with vibrating eyes?”
—from the Shiva Tandav Stotram, the prayer to Lord Shiva, attributed to Ravana
I’m thrilled to announce TWO special events presented through the team of Ordained Spiritual Healers (that would be me and friends!) who have together been offering free spiritual healing services in Evanston, IL.
Padre Paul Funsinn, of Celebrating Life Ministries, will be joining us for two events that together, make up an afternoon of wonders!
TOUCHING THE FREQUENCIES OF HEAVEN: MAGNETIZE YOURSELF FOR DIVINE GRACE!
An afternoon workshop (paid registration) 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm
A late afternoon FREE HEALING SERVICE 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm
One event builds on the other! Come for both and saturate yourself in the healing waves of energy!
Padre Paul was, for 27 years, Rev. Dr. Ron Roth’s closest associate and designated successor to his powerful ministry of sacred healing. I met Paul 15 years ago. While his prayer life was always rich and his blessings healing in every way, since Ron’s passing, the anointing has literally passed to Paul and I’ve watched the explosions of miracles abound around him. Humble, loving and compassionate, don’t miss this opportunity to move your own spiritual life to a new, accelerated level. And hey, start praying for YOUR miracle—and everyone else’s—now!
Full details and tickets on my Healing Events page or click on Rev. Nettie’s Event Registrations in the right-hand column to get the full story and reserve your spot NOW!
Read some recent healing stories / testimonials on our events page!
Celebrating Life Ministries’ events on the West Coast have come to be known as “West of Heaven” events. On the East Coast: “East of Heaven”. That makes Chicagoland, where it all began for Ron Roth and Paul, “Heaven Central.”
DON’T MISS THIS ONE! SEE YOU THERE! BRING YOUR FRIENDS—YOU KNOW WHO NEEDS TO BE THERE!
About 20 years ago, I was standing in Borders Books in Stamford CT, leafing through this beautiful and expensive hardcover volume that I decided to buy for a friend of mine who was an artist as well as an India-phile. An artist myself, I knew a beautiful set of illustrations when I saw them, and knew she would adore the book. I was vaguely familiar with the fact that the Ramayana was an ancient Indian tale, albeit one I’d never read. As I paged through the story, I read the brief recounting of the tale that accompanied the lush illustrations. When I got toward the end of the narrative— which involved a hapless woman being forced to give a test of her purity by fire—I lost all interest, but I still loved the pictures. I meant to eventually buy myself a copy of the book, but I never got around to it.
I did not know then that the illustrator, B.G. Sharma, was one of the most famous modern sacred artists in India. I did not know then that the monkey on the cover would, over the course of many more years, subtly inveigle his way into my consciousness. And I certainly did not know then that this tale would slowly take over my very existence.
I’m hardly alone in that, though. Versions of the Ramayana are known all over Asia, and the tale has been told for time out of mind. There are hundreds if not thousands of entire websites devoted to it; there have been an abundance of film and tv versions made in India (every decade inspires a new remake that can keep up with advances in special effects); there are books of philosophy written about it and teachings in universities and business schools based on the lessons therein. It is told and retold and re-enacted and re-illustrated.
And anything that has that kind of sway over that many people for that long a time seemed to be at least worth familiarizing myself with.
One thing I came to appreciate: it’s impossible to have an understanding of India or Indian culture without familiarity with its two great epics: The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. The two express the very soul of India in a way that, in my opinion, has no comparison in Western culture. It forms a vocabulary and a frame of reference for everything from the most ordinary facets of life to the highest halls of learning and spirituality.
But that does not explain why it stole into my own life to the point where, really, I could only admit to others of the same ilk the degree to which it has taken over and pretty much crowded out 80% of everything else.
I should pause here to say that my involvement with The Mahabharata preceded my romance with Ramayana. It all started in 2005 during a visit to India, when I shipped home two huge volumes that constituted an abridged (only 2000 pages) Mahabharata, and was soon followed by a translation of the Ramayana. My obsession with both epics has continued pretty much unabated since then. It seems that The Mahabharata alternates with the Ramayana in my life, much like Beethoven contrasts with Mozart—different temperaments; both awesome, both transformative, both able to bring you into the realm of the transcendent if you allow them.
Each character in these epics embodies an aspect of human life and aspiration. We can see ourselves in all our greatness and all our folly, much like the phenomenon that makes Shakespeare timeless despite the changing idioms and languages of five centuries.
But that understanding was still not enough to explain my obsession.
Until finally, the mystery got solved a year ago, when, driven by this compulsion, I attended a three-day Ramanyana retreat with Swami Jyotirmayananda of Yoga Research Foundation in Miami, FL, whom I’d heard about from my friend Patty.
That retreat afforded me the rare opportunity to be in the presence of one who is both an eminent scholar & author and an enlightened sage. It’s a killer combo; and I’m sure he was drawn into my life at that juncture by the intensity of my interest. When I say he is an enlightened sage, I don’t mean enlightened as in “he sheds light on the subject”, (although he does that too), but enlightened as in “has attained total Divine Union and bliss consciousness with God while still in a human body.” Only an enlightened sage can speak of the symbols and deep meanings in these stories not from a philosophical speculation or intellectual explanation, but from direct soul experience.
What I realized in the first few hours of listening to him was that the reason these tales had moved into my mental neighborhood and evicted most of the earlier residents is that they are encoded maps to enlightenment. Far beyond being references for life in the everyday world, they are maps of the journey of the Soul to Re-Union (yoga) with itSelf. At the deepest, most archetypal level, the part of me that had been on this path for a long time recognized that fact even though I could not name it. And understanding that which Swamiji calls the mystic meanings, resolves most of my conflicts about various events in the story.
I now believe that certain archetypes speak to our understanding of the Journey of Life, but on different levels. Some archetypes serve to inform us about the wisdom of leading our life on this earth plane. Many fairy tales come under this heading, as do Shakespeare and other beloved stories from many cultures.
The Ramayana (and the Mahabharata) do this as well, but they go a giant leap further—beyond the earth plane to the true purpose of the journey of the soul: Divine RE-Union.
I was taught by Caroline Myss that the ancient Mystery Schools divided the Mysteries into Lesser Mysteries and Greater Mysteries. The Lesser Mysteries were for those in the outer courts; those who needed the veil of symbols and rituals to enact for them great spiritual truths that the masses were not capable of digesting whole. Only Initiates were allowed into the Greater Mysteries; and the net result of the Greater Mysteries was attaining the actual integrated experience that All is One, aka Divine Union—enlightenment.
The Ramayana is the Lesser and the Greater Mysteries all rolled into one. At the level of the Lesser Mysteries, it’s a great mythic story with the usual gangs of Gods and Demons, Heroes and Villains, Damsels in Distress, Triumphs and Tragedies. But at the Greater Mysteries level, it’s the Treasure Hunt Map to the Long Journey Home. The same holds true for the Mahabharata, which holds at its great heart the Bhagavad Gita, which serves as the ultimate scripture for more than a billion people.
The Ramayana contains something that the Mahabharata does not*: Hanuman.
(*Note: Hanuman actually has an important cameo role in the Mahabharata, but in the Ramayana he is one of the hearts of the story.)
Hanuman is the monkey on the cover of the book that first drew me in. Devotion to Hanuman was, at another point in my own journey, frankly, quite alien to me no matter how expansive my background.
Long before I had any familiarity with any epic outside of my own culture’s, I remember reading a quote from Sathya Sai Baba in one of my study groups, how Hanuman was the Lord’s greatest devotee of all time.
“Great,” I thought, knowing absolutely nothing about Hanuman at the time, “a monkey is the greatest devotee. Then what chance do humans have? Very discouraging.”
When I actually read the story, I came to understand that the vanaras, which we translate as “monkey”, but which I’ve seen translated as forest dwellers, were far beyond our present-day conception of monkeys. In the Ramayana, they are the incarnations of demigods, born expressly to help Vishnu, the aspect of God that is devoted to preserving and sustaining creation, to overcome the evil which had gotten out of bounds. The demigods needed to take this form because the chief antagonist of the age, the demon Ravana, had secured a boon which made him invulnerable to all—all except for man and apes, both of whom he considered too puny to be concerned about. Vishnu descends to earth to aid mankind by incarnating as a man—four men in fact: Rama and his three brothers. Vishnu’s eternal consort, Lakshmi, incarnates as Sita, born of the earth itself, intimately expressing the connection between God and Nature, between Creator and Creation. In order to help Vishnu in this divine mission to destroy evil, the aspect of God that represents destruction (or transformational energy)—Shiva himself—is born as the invincible Hanuman, whose only raison d’etre is to serve Rama.
It was through Swami Jyotirmayananda’s teachings that I came to understand why the most recognized pictures of the Ramayana always depict this quartet: Rama, his wife Sita, his brother Lakshman, and kneeling at their feet, always, Hanuman. Ram is the embodied symbol of the all-pervasive pure God consciousness; the Eternal Witness. Sita represents the intuitional intellect, or the higher intuitional wisdom of the mind. Lakshman, the devoted warrior-brother-with-a-quick-temper embodies the Will to action, and Hanuman, the immortal and invincible one who could literally “move mountains” is the aspect of Devotion. Where there is Hanuman, there is Ram; where there is Devotion, there is God. It is the power of devotion that moves mountains, that melts the heart of the Lord, that creates miracles, that manifests our own Superpowers. Ram is victorious only because of Hanuman; Hanuman accomplishes all his victories through the power of Ram.
Among the various routes back to divine knowledge of the eternal Self, (yoga), Devotion, or Bhakti in Sanskrit, is the path of yoga to which I gravitate. I’ve never been a disciplined meditator (Raja yoga), I often fail to live up to my own noble notions of spending more time in selfless service (the path of Karma, or Action-oriented yoga), I’m not proficient or consistent in my occasional flirtations with Hatha (physical) yoga, and while I love to read, I’m far more drawn to the stories and legends (Puranas) than I am to pure Jnana (philophical inquiries). But Bhakti is like my home country: singing, chanting, mantras, silent repetition of one of the names or aspects of the Divine have become so integrated into my life that they are all like breathing.
Since Hanuman is the ultimate symbol of devotion, it followed that, whether I liked it or not, I have, little by little found that indeed, there is a legendary Monkey on My Back, and I have no intentions of shaking him off any time soon, or any time at all, for that matter. I do intend, from time to time, to share some reflections on the Ramayana and its well-traversed episodes, of which there is a seemingly inexhaustible font of interpretations and observations to mine.
Although I’d already read several book versions of the Ramayana, and had seen the great 1988 television series by Ramanand Sagar—which, when first aired, literally brought India to a standstill and which has been seen by an estimated 100 million people in its time—it was when I stumbled across the later 2008 Sagar tv version that I became a totally lost cause.
The music throughout the series by legendary composer and singer Ravindra Jain slays me, and to this day I react viscerally to the theme song.
Fortunately for me, I have infected my housemate, friend and colleague, Jan, with Ramayana disease. One night, when we were watching yet another go-round of some version of Rama’s story, she turned to me and asked: “Is this what we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives? Watching the Ramayana?”
“Pretty much, yes,” I replied. “is there anything else?”
It’s my intention to share some of the rich journey with that story on these pages here from time to time, hopefully making the wisdom accessible to people who are not so enamoured of immersing themselves in the story.
Jai Hanuman! Jai Sri Ram!
I know a lot of people for whom the spiritual journey is the major focus of their lives. It naturally comes with the territory of being a healer and minister, participating in spiritual circles, going to seminary, and spending a life as a “seeker”—or as I often prefer to call myself, a “finder.”
A good part of the last two decades has been spent walking the proverbial razor’s edge between the desire to live a life wholly devoted to spiritual pursuits, and the need to deal with details like having a roof over my head, a functional vehicle, health insurance and the like.
I am not alone in this. Most of my independent ministerial and healer colleagues report the same. Sometime after we graduated seminary in 2004 I penned a musical parody called “Keep Your Day Job,” a warning to would-be ministers and healers who are part of the starry-eyed “lightworkers” navigating this treacherous territory better known as The Real World.
(Excerpt from Keep Your Day Job)
Now it is true, as you have read, to trust Me to provide
But get it through your airy head
And brand this on your hide
Before you jump without a net, seeking greener grass
A lot of ministers like you have ended pumping gas
Keep your day job; I need you right now where you are
Keep your day job: it makes the payments on your car
Keep your day job; even Jesus had a job
Until the time when I told him: Now go and feed that mob”
(Keep Your Day Job, ©2006 Rev. Nettie M. Spiwack)
My main mentor in this arena, Rev. Dr. Ron Roth, who had a 25-year career as a Roman Catholic priest before leaving the Catholic church and launching an inclusive healing ministry, once exhorted his ordination students at a Family Day: “For heaven’s sake, just because your brain squeezed out an extra pheromone, don’t quit your day job and hang out a shingle as a healer!”
I noted that this was spoken by one of the most powerful healers of his time, who had left his “day job” of being a Catholic Priest wherein all his worldly needs were provided, and entered the Real World as a monastic without a monastery or a church to support him. He encouraged his students to first realize their ministries in the life they were living, whatever that was.
In India, the Mother Ship of Spiritual Realization, there is a many-thousands years’ tradition of renouncing the world to be a Swami or Swamini (feminine) dedicating one’s life to the Quest for God. In its most austere form, this renunciation involves a loincloth and a begging bowl, and sometimes not even these. Renunciation of different kinds has parallels in monastic traditions of other faiths; but the image of going to the forest or the cave to block out all worldly distractions in the single-pointed pursuit of God comes to us directly from the Mother Ship.
From time to time since the 1800’s (and perhaps before), along comes an Indian Master who is told by his own Master to stay in the world as a householder as an example to the masses who struggle with daily life that Realization can indeed be attained while living a life in the world. A well-known example of this is Lahiri Mahasaya of the SRF lineage (Yogananda’s Guru’s Guru), who was given those instructions by the immortal Babaji.
Still with us today, Sri M of Madanapalle—who this month is launching the 18-month Walk of Hope across India, lived three of his young adult years in the Himalayas with one of those legendary Masters—also a Master in the Babaji lineage—and then, to his utter dismay, was sent by his Guru back to the plains with instructions to live a married life, find a career and work for a living like any other person. Else, he was instructed, how could he understand the problems of the many who were destined to come to him for advice in our modern world? Sri M wears no robes and looks, for all intents and purposes, like anybody else. Except, that could not be further from the truth*.
My own preceptor, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, had a maxim: “Hands in the world, head in the forest.” This is the same as the biblical injunction to be in the world, but not of it. Sai Baba said that in this age, it’s greater tapas (austere spiritual discipline) to live a spiritual life while doing your work in the world than it is to go to the forest to perform ritual austerities as a renunciate.
Sai Baba’s many years were spent building enormous free hospitals, universities, providing clean drinking water for millions and millions and countless other Real World activities.
He once reprimanded an older university professor who wanted to resign to earnestly pursue spiritual disciplines (sadhana) full-time: “As long as you keep making the separation between spiritual and worldly life, you won’t achieve your desire (liberation) in thousands of lifetimes.” (paraphrase). The teacher stayed on and became a beloved font of wisdom to another generation of students.
In other words, not just Keep Your Day Job, but Your Day Job IS Your Sadhana (spiritual practice) and your “ministry.”
I have been aware for a long time that all distinctions between “real life” and “spiritual life” are artificial. In fact, I hold myself to a failing grade on the Enlightenment Report Card according to the degree to which I experience that they are different. Some semesters in this Graduate School are better than others. Some years I surely need special tutoring.
Intellectual understanding and actualization still have an 14-inch road to travel from the head to the heart. That’s why realization is called Realization. You have to make it real in your own experience.
I know a few colleagues who live at this level of making no distinction between their spiritual and worldly lives. The majority of them, like myself, have lived a professional life in the world of corporate consulting. As I mostly do in my highest Self, they view everything they do as a form of healing. “I’m a corporate exorcist”, I used to joke.
Most traditions, though not all, have teachings about dedicating all your actions in service to God, and relinquishing attachment to any “fruits” of your labor.
It’s a continuous, often tough spiral mountain path. For those who make their sole living in, or have tried to make that leap into the world of personal healing arts or ministry, the Graduate Curriculum can be especially intense. It remains a razor’s edge walk.
Being in the world while not of it is a great training ground for releasing the sense of ego-self. Ram Dass famously said: “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” That quip could as easily be: “Go spend an hour in a team meeting or doing performance reviews.”
For those who have been touched by the true Presence, the desire to spend full time—or at least a lot more time—of one’s working life in communion with that Presence can be overwhelming. Most do experience some sense of duality in that regard. It’s a part of the journey.
May those who are yearning for it achieve Oneness of realization of vision, where all is alike, regardless of the form.
(*Get Sri M’s priceless autobiography here. I’ve already read it three times. There are also great interviews on YouTube.)
You can open to the Divine by yourself in a cave, but for most people, it’s far easier to do in the company of others. What kind of company? “Good Company” advise the Great Ones. That is the meaning of the word “Satsang” — a community of truth-seekers.
My mentor, Rev. Dr. Ron Roth, who spent over 40 years conducting healing services with attendance ranging from 10 to 10,000 people at any given event, used to warn the audience: “When I call out your condition, NOW is the time to come forward for healing. Don’t think you’re going to corner me privately later in the hall and get any result.”
He was referring to the fact that in the energy of the group prayer and devotion, the healing presence of the Holy Spirit and the holy spirit helpers were called forth in that elevated energy (vibration is another way of saying it) and performed the healing work in a way that usually was astonishing and miraculous. “When Kathryn Kuhlman led services,” he would exhort over and over, “she would stand and sing with the choir and the audience for over an hour before she began the healing portion.”
Why did she do this? Why did Ron insist on long intervals of musical prayer? Indeed, I learned the role of music in healing by serving as one of Ron’s musical team for almost 10 years. I experienced firsthand how music and chanting elevate the vibrational field. All cultures and traditions everywhere recognize this, and there are virtually no healing traditions that don’t include some sort of meditative sounding, whether it is drumming, om-ing, singing, chanting, gongs, kirtan or any other form of music.
Yogananda once held a service in which he had the jam-packed crowd at Carnegie Hall chanting “Oh God Beautiful” for an hour and twenty five minutes!:
“For one hour and twenty-five minutes, the thousands of voices of the entire audience chanted…in a divine atmosphere of joyous praise…The next day many men and women testified to the God-perception and the healing of body, mind, and soul that had taken place during the sacred chanting, and numerous requests came in to repeat the song at other services.“* *
Could Yogananda, or other great mystics, bring about healing without a crowd of chanters? Yes. Such Divine Masters vibrate at a level much greater than your average spiritual healer.
I studied with Mahendra Trivedi for a time, and he joked about experiments in India where they hooked him up to various scientific apparatus and brought in the greatest of Reiki healers, whose effect was absolutely nil. The reason, he chuckled, was “the stronger energy always wins.” His own energetic field was so much higher that nothing she did could affect him in any way. But he himself has transmuted, in scientific experiments, just about every substance known to man, and great healings have also occurred through him. So the fully God-Realized can and do emit a healing energy regardless of the environment.
Yet, many of them; in fact almost all I can think of, did use the group to amplify and generate the field and invite in the Divine Presence. John of God, perhaps the greatest medium and spiritist healer in hundreds of years, has several hundred mediums meditating to generate the field in which the benevolent Encidades (healing entities) do their work through him. At the Casa Dom Inacio in Brazil, this energy field is called the “current”. It comes from the portuguese word corrente, which means both an energetic/electrical current and a chain…it is a healing current formed by a chain of people.”Sit in the current” is the most frequent prescription given at the Casa.
Current is a beautiful example of “give & get.” Some people prefer to have a healer work on them in private. This is effective too, depending on the healer. But one must remember, that’s all about the “getting.” The beauty of healing in and with a group, is that you are also giving. And in terms of your own Grace Bank Account, that can only be a good thing.
Healing services are an opportunity to come together and generate that energetic field in such a way that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the meaning underlying the famous quote of Jesus: “Where two or more are gathered together, there am I among you.”
Join me at our next free healing event January 10th, 2015 in Evanston, IL: https://revnettie.com/healing-events/
2) Spiritual “seekers”, or those who are drawn to spiritually-charged environments where they experience Divine Presence, whether they are immediately concerned with healing a particular condition or not.
But really, do you know anyone whose life doesn’t “hurt” in some way? It may not be a physical need at all; sometimes it’s just an intense spiritual longing; longing to be free, to feel whole, to know God, by whatever name or form you recognize.
Whatever brings you into the room, there is one big question on the mind of most people who come to a healing service, event or retreat: “Will I get a miracle healing of my situation?”
This question comes with a whole lot of little questions dangling off of it. Questions such as: “I don’t know if I even believe in this—why am I here?” or
“Everyone else will get something, but probably not me, right?” or
“Why does this one get healed and so many others don’t? Why does someone experience instantaneous relief, and for others it may be a long process, and for some …’they died anyway.'”
Here’s what I want to say right at the get-go: I have no idea who will or won’t get healed, what level of healing they may experience, what is energetically initiated for them, and how it may play out in an individual’s life in terms of time. Unfortunately, “knowing” did not come with the job description. 🙂
I wish I did know.
Every one who dares to be identified as a “healer” of any level of ability—whether being a healer constitutes a mommy-kiss on the bruised knee, being a medical doctor or even a John of God—all healers must ask themselves the same thing: why do some “boo-boos” heal and some don’t? The truth is, we don’t really know why two situations that look very similar end up with different results, although it can be pretty enticing to make up fascinating reasons, which may or may not have merit, and there are some great books on the subject. We just surrender to Divine Will.
But I do know a few things.
I know that great miracles of healing do indeed exist, and I’ve witnessed them and been a part of them; the long slow ones and the “miraculous” instantaneous ones. When it comes to the great healers, I’ve been with some of the Best in the World; those who heal publicly, and those who heal silently from a distance.
I know enough to know that with all that I do know, I don’t know much. (Say that one five times fast.)
Here’s what else I know: healing, by whatever means it happens, is a function of Divine Grace, not of the person through whom it comes. Grace means, hey, you may or may not deserve it, but here’s a gift from the Divine.
If you don’t get the gift you were hoping & praying for, then sometimes the gift is accepting that you’ve got some learning from the situation you’ve got.
I’ve been with enough spiritually amazing people who have died of cancer or had other disagreeable endings (at least from our physical point of view.) All have said to me or to others: “I would not trade what I’ve learned from this experience for anything.” That doesn’t stop me or them from desiring or praying for a different ending. Listen, surrender is difficult, and every time you think you’ve mastered it in one area, up pops the opportunity in yet another.
Surrender is like an ongoing game of Spiritual Whack-a-Mole.
Here’s another thing I know: healing comes from the word for “whole”. Healing is, much as WE DO NOT WANT TO HEAR THIS, not really ultimately about making our arthritis go away or our cancer disappear—although, I’ll take all the physical healing I can get or give. God knows I’ve chased that kind of healing literally to the “ends of the earth” for myself and many others. I’m as agog as anyone else each and every time I hear of or witness a miraculous physical or emotional healing. It’s what I live for.
But that’s not truly Wholeness, is it? Because—brace yourself for this news—in this game of Life, nobody gets out alive. So healed today, gone tomorrow is still the unfortunate truth.
Then, wholeness means something else; healing means something else, beyond just bodily or emotional healing.
Healing is about one thing only: healing that sense of being separate from your Divine origins; call it “separated from God, or Spirit or the Self.
When we recognize someone as “enlightened” or “awakened”, we are recognizing that they have healed that breech at the soul level. What happens then to the body is immaterial (pun intended). That is one reason why Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian saint of the last century, cared little when his devotees begged him to heal himself of the cancer that took him out; why I believe that Ron Roth spent two years in a wheelchair before finally exiting, and there are many other stories like this.
So what can you expect at a healing service?
On the pure physical level, the formats differ from healer to healer. In the legacy I’m a part of, there will definitely be a good deal of music and chanting to bring everyone into a sense of unity, community and raised vibrations. As Ron Roth used to teach us, all spiritual traditions start with raising the vibrations through chant, drum, music. There are some talks that are divinely guided in that they are usually inspired in a way that someone in the room needs to hear. And then there are some organized hands-on healing prayers, where you may be lightly touched on the head.
In our Dec 13th Service in Evanston, IL, Rev. Wendy Chojnowski and I will be working together. We’ve had that opportunity before in one way or another, and it’s always full of delightful spiritual surprises and amplified energy. Our styles are different, but we are sourced from the Same Place.
In some way, we who function as the conduits open up to let a more powerful energy of Grace touch your life. That Divine Wisdom knows exactly how much voltage you can handle, what needs to be done, in what order, for the healing of your own life. You can relax, and rest in the fact that a Grace bigger than your small self can be in control, even if you can’t dictate the outcome.
Sometimes people experience immediate releases of pain or find out within a short period of time that something troubling them in their life miraculously clears up. Some people notice incremental changes. And others walk away feeling “nothing happened.” And maybe in the moment, it didn’t in a way they wanted. From where I stand, something always happens when you open yourself to greater blessing energy. Maybe, five years later, they turn around and realize that some profound changes in their lives were initiated by someone’s Grace-filled touch at a particularly crucial moment.
What can you expect at a healing service? Expect the good. Expect a better, higher connection with God; another name for Good. Expect to open to more goodness and love in your life. Be willing. Be open. Open yourself to possibilities that you only dare to hope for. Ask for what you need. Ask to be Whole. And then, be grateful.More on that another time.
Join us in Evanston, IL on Dec. 13th for our Free Healing Service: Grace, Power & Miracles… from 4 pm to 6:30 pm at Unity on the North Shore
Details here: https://revnettie.com/healing-events/
Download flyer: Dec13FlyerFInal3
On my first visit to India for a world diversity conference in 1997, I made friends with Marisa, an Indian woman who lived in Mumbai. Though she was Catholic, she was quite comfortable in the Hindu culture surrounding her. While sightseeing in the city, she took me to a temple that, if it wasn’t actually ancient, was in enough disrepair to qualify it as such.
We took our shoes off at the designated place in the outer courtyard. Like many entrances to Hindu temples, there was a statue out front. It was a bronze cow or bull, (I wasn’t sure), that had been worn shiny by countless hands touching it in reverence before entering the inner sanctum. Suspended over it was a bell.
“Come, let’s ring the bell, and let the gods know we are here,” she smiled, beckoning me to follow her example.
I kept looking at the shiny bronze cow, which in all its relaxed golden glory looked exactly like something Charlton Heston smashed with the original tablets of the Law in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments”—just seconds before cartoon fire descended from heaven to consume all the “ye of little faith” crowd. (Those were top-of-the-line special effects back then, in the days before Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic.)
Despite my multi-cultural self, all my Jewish upbringing arose, and I couldn’t bring myself to touch that golden calf…er…cow…er…bull. (I did, however, follow Marisa into the temple).
Such is the power of cultural implants.
Judaism and Islam share something in common in this area: one is not supposed to make “graven images,” or represent God in any physical way. Art will express itself somehow, and from this proscription, you get the absolutely stunning Islamic calligraphy and decorative arts. (I think Jews were too busy being chased out of various countries around the world to develop a parallel artistic accomplishment on the same scale).
The point is, one didn’t paint pictures of God.
Someone failed to tell that to Michelangelo, however, and to countless other Christian artists before and after him. As we all know, the Catholic and Orthodox churches developed a sophisticated vocabulary of imagery precisely focused on statues and icons, thus giving us some of the greatest works of art in the Western world—which, as an art student all my young life, I imbibed with my milk and cookies (and later wine and cheese). Yet, like many outside that culture, worship that included images or even more disconcerting, statues, was beyond my understanding.
As I later got more and more immersed in teachings and culture of India, I got a different lens on the whole phenomenon. The Jungian writer, Robert A. Johnson, wrote in his biography Balancing Heaven & Earth:
Soul work, or inner work, takes place when something moves from the unconscious, where it began, into conscious awareness. The path is never straight and neat inside oneself, as if you could go to a library and do all your inner work there. Instead, when something is ready to move from the unconscious to the conscious, it needs a host or intermediary. Generally this intermediary is some person or thing.
In other words, a saint, guru, picture or statue.
Spiritually speaking, we need to project those divine qualities that are our birthright, that we carry within us, onto someone or something else.
Seen in a magnified way in another, it become easier for us to grow into those holy qualities, be they goodness, kindness or holiness itself. Indian tradition takes that a step further—a student literally worships the guru as God, with the understanding that the Guru is in fact a stand-in until the student can hold that Divine energy him/herself.
I attended a ritual in the city of Madurai on my last trip in 2009. At the end of the nine-day Dassera festival came an evening devoted to the women. As part of that holiday’s ritual, a young girl was dressed up as a goddess Parvati, and the older women fed and tended to her in a worshipful manner. The beautiful girl accepting the devotions of her elders was graceful and stunning. At the core of the ceremony was yet another variant of that all-encompassing Sanskrit greeting: Namaste: the God in me beholds the God in you.
When Mother Theresa was asked how she could embrace the most destitute and dying on the streets of Kolkata, she answered that when she looked at them, she saw Jesus. This, too, is the projection of the Divine.
In my home, I have little altars in most of the rooms. All around are pictures of Great Ones, statues, rocks; all triggers of remembrance. My daughter, when she was younger, used to complain that the house looked like a monastery, “with Bibles everywhere!” (The two Bibles I have were in my study.)
If we see the Divine outside ourselves enough, eventually we bring it home where it belongs, in the inner temple.
Where are your divine projections focused? Where do you think they come from? (People of different backgrounds see that divine seed differently.) How do you remember the sacred?
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There are times in your life when you can see everything coming together in a way that is so perfect and so fluid that you can only stand aside and watch the pieces fall into place, knowing that only divine Grace could so direct the play.
Two years ago, on the night after my mentor Ron Roth died, I had a vivid dream visitation; a dream in which my friend Rev. Susi Roos and I were dressing in ministerial vestments in the vestry of a Catholic church. Ron Roth, in full priestly regalia, came charging down the aisle of the cathedral, holding his bishop’s staff and scolding us loudly in his most annoyed tone.
“Where are you, I’m WAITING for you!” he said impatiently.
He turned back toward the altar, and Susi and I fled down the aisle after him, practically running to keep up. He mounted the platform and we slid into seats behind him and looked out at a vast crowd.
On August 9th, that dream came to life when Susi and I got into our ministerial vestments in the vestry of St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic church in Rialto, California. And though Ron was not there in body, he certainly was fully present for both of us and for the people of the parish in the San Bernardino area who came in droves to attend the seminar and healing service Evicting Cancer, which, two years ago when I had the dream, was not even a glimmer in either of our eyes.
When I first floated the idea for doing this interfaith educational and healing event past Fr. Steve Porter, whom I had met in Brazil, I did some rapid math in my head. I knew his parish was large, and I figured that among 9000 people, many lives must be touched by cancer. How many would turn out on a weekday or weeknight to hear two unknown female ministers was at best a gamble—I figured anywhere from 10 to 100. But the Holy Spirit had other ideas.
Unknown to me when we had first spoken of the idea was the fact that Fr. Steve has conducted regular healing services at his church for years, and had everything and everyone in place to hold a large-scale event that otherwise would have taken a huge amount of logistical arrangements if we were truly starting from scratch—which we weren’t. With Fr. Steve’s enthusiastic support, the first of two events that day had around 300 people in attendance at 10:00 a.m.
A wonderful musical ministry team gave their time to support the services, and to provide translation during our talks as well. After we were introduced in English and Spanish by Fr. Steve, Rev. Susi, who works as both a nurse and a mind/body specialist at a leading cancer treatment facility, spent the first hour talking on the three biggest mistakes people make when addressing cancer, and gave easy and practical things people could do to greatly assist the effectiveness of their treatment. She put all the medical information into a spiritual context, touching on some of the concepts from her in-depth teleseminars and home-study programs.
Then it was my turn to open people up to a higher energy transmission through teaching and leading worship (something I’ve done many times on a scale larger than 300 people) and in the laying-on-of-hands healing (something I’ve done in smaller events).
Fr. Steve had arranged with one of the prayer groups to provide support, and in accordance with the way they conduct healing services at this church, every individual is personally escorted by a healing minister to come for laying on of hands; the minister stays with them if they go “down under the Power of the Spirit” (involuntarily fall gently to rest on the floor while healing is done on an unconscious level).
Our spiritual assistants also functioned as translators as the vast majority of those attending had Spanish as their primary language.
I knew one thing: don’t prepare too much, because whatever you think will happen, it will surely be something different. And so it was.
I was ready to lay hands on people in blessing, but shortly into the personal blessings I was led to look at them in the eyes, and as I did, thoughts would come flooding in, differing from one person to the next, such as “have courage!” or “you are loved…” There was clearly an energy being transmitted through the gazing, and all I had to do was get out of the way and let it happen. I also found myself clearing much “junk”—removing invisible energy blocks before passing people on to Susi, who then anointed them with oil. As she blessed them, many went down under the Power. Fr. Steve moved amongst the people and between us, lending energetic, logistical and prayer support.
The morning, scheduled to go from 10:00 – 12:00, continued till 1:00 p.m., as people waited patiently in line for their turn.
The evening event began at 7:00 pm, and saw many more people fill the church. This time it was clear to Fr. Steve that at least half were not his parishioners, but those who had heard about the opportunity through friends or through the local Spanish radio station, and had come with hope in their hearts, some bringing children, some with older people in wheelchairs, some holding pictures of loved ones.
As the evening went on, the Divine energy in the church became electric; people were open, full of devotion and enthusiastically ready to receive Grace. Reflected on many faces as they approached, was much fear, pain and suffering, and devotion as well. But just under the surface lay a hunger and thirst for love, hope, and most of all, peace—the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The service started promptly at 7:00 and didn’t end till after 11:00. Fr. Steve estimated that we had over 1000 in attendance and about 700 who came up to be personally blessed. I had no idea how many; I could only see the person in front of me, and Juvenal, the human angel who was assisting me, pointed me where I needed to go in the cases of the elderly and wheelchair patients.
This time, as the evening went on, as I looked at the person in front of me, I knew within seconds who was physically sick and who was there for emotional reasons. If I asked, they would verify the information and give a few words about their situation. As expected, there were many with cancers, but there were many other conditions as well, often advanced and serious, as well as those seeking help with emotional problems.
People come to healing services hoping for miraculous help. And what they mean is, on the physical level, they want their cancers to disappear; their ailments—many of which took years and years to establish—to vanish immediately. I’ve been in this world of healing long enough to know that this indeed happens at times, and I believe that when it happens it’s to build faith not only in that person, but in all who know them.
More often, a new kind of journey is initiated. Susi quotes her first patient in this field who begged for her help, sensing Susi knew things that could help her, even though the doctors had told her they couldn’t do any more: “You turned my death sentence into a healing journey,” she later said.
While I’ve experienced that journey in my own life and witnessed it in so many others—some near and dear to me—that night took everything I’ve ever been through in the world of spiritual healing to a whole new level.
I stood at the center of the healing vortex and I could see, feel and know that an energetic transformation had happened for many attendees; that infusion of Divine energy would revitalize them; some in the physical, some in the emotional, some in the spiritual, and some in all three.
An infusion of energy always alters that which it touches; it’s a physical law. What’s less well-known is that it is a spiritual law as well.
As a result, I know that not only the people who came were changed; I, too, am changed.
For almost 30 years I have resounded with the quote from George Bernard Shaw that starts: This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…
On August 9th, I was fully used by that purpose. There is no better place to be. For that privilege, I am grateful to God.
Our gratitude also goes to Fr. Steve Porter for making this event available to the people of his community, with whom we now share a profound sense of love and blessing.