Monday, June 27, 2011

Lakshmi



The strawberries are ripe.  Warm from the sun, and wearing their seeds seductively on the outside, they cause the eyes to close as a tremor of delight shimmers through the body and juice slides down the chin.

And there are peonies.  Petals drop like layers of petticoats from one; ants, drunken and clamoring, gather the sweetness from the firm bud of another. 

The peas have grown a foot in the last week. They tendril greenly up their trellis, sentient spirals reaching, a vineing dance of rain swallowed and sunlight expressed.

It is almost too much.  Dragonflies swoop and shine, everything sparkles, and all around there pulses an inexpressible green, a profound aliveness, a radiant fullness of being.

We have arrived at Lakshmi’s season: Mid-Summer, the high noon of the year, the full bloom and blossom of Nature. 

Here at the Summer Solstice, as the sun appears to rise and set in the same place for about two weeks (sol-stice=sun-still), we are invited to pause and savor.  At the height of the year, just as at the peak of the mountain or the top of the Ferris wheel, we stop.  We look around.  We drink in the view, relish with awe how far we have come, up and out of the chilly muck of winter and spring and into the lavish, outrageous cacophony of delicious beauty that is summer.

Lakshmi is the abundance of Nature.  She is the nectar, the sap, the rasa of life which gives the world its flavor and beauty.  Her form composed all of shimmering luminosity, her very name is related to (among other things) our word “light.”  Radiant as the sun itself, she is also the fertile, fecund nature of the soil.

In her red sari she represents menstrual blood, the maturity of woman.  With her is the nocturnal owl suggesting female intuition and womb wisdom, and an elephant with its up-turned trunk representing male virility and the fertilizing rain.

As with Aphrodite/Venus, Lakshmi is said to have arisen out of the churning ocean of cosmic consciousness (the primordial ocean from which, of course, all life originally came).  Arriving fully formed on a foaming wave of magical milk Lakshmi stands upon the beautiful lotus flower which, too, represents form arising out of formlessness, dreams manifesting into reality.  She sometimes is called Padma or Kamala, both meaning “lotus.”

Also like Venus/Aphrodite who was married to Vulcan/Hephaestus, Lakshmi is said to have been married to an underworld demi-god, Kubera, the one in charge of all the riches, jewels, and gemstones: the wealth of the earth.  Kubera is said to be Lord of the Yaksas, vegetative beings who are portrayed with vines and leaves coming out of their mouths and navels (much like the “Green-man” whose images are found throughout Europe).

In some parts of rural India, Lakshmi (known originally simply as “Sri”) is still worshipped in the form of cow dung, for it is she who gives life to the crops.  In the “Sri-sukta” she is described as being moist, “perceptible through odor,” “abundant in harvest,” and “dwelling in cow dung.”  As one of her incarnations, she was Sita, whose name means “furrow” and who was discovered, fully formed, in her father’s field.  In some texts Lakshmi has a son named Kardama, which means mud or mire.

Lakshmi is creativity, radiant vitality, and abundance.  She is the beauty and the vibrancy of the green earth.  She is the fertile power of the soil and of our own hearts.  It is no accident that she is often described as dwelling in the heart, the emerald green of the anahata chakra, the place through which we communicate with the plants and the green world.  Our blood is but one molecule different than chlorophyll.

And so, at this most brilliant time, as we pause to kneel on the earth before the blood-red jewels of strawberries; as we pause to savor their sweet flesh, still warm from the generous rays of the sun; we remember and honor, too, the dark web of soil that gives us life, that nourishes us, and from which we are never really separated. 

The gift of Lakshmi is that she reveals the abundance and possibility that is already within each one of us.  We are not separate from Nature.  The vitality, the luminosity, the beauty and creative splendor you perceive in the natural world around you is you.

As John Seed writes, “Once we have fallen in love outwards, once we have experience the fierce joy of life that attends extending our identity into nature, once we realize that the nature within and the nature without are continuous, then we too may share and manifest the exquisite  beauty and effortless grace associated with the natural world.”

This is the time to ask, “What within me is ready to flower into fullness?”  “What delicious expression of my creativity, my brilliance, my potential is ripening in this new season of light and abundance?”

On these longest days, we pause.  We savor.  We delight in the gifts that one after another unfurl themselves before us like ferns or pea tendrils.  And even as the strawberry is consumed and the peony’s petals fall we can ask, as Rainer Maria Rilke asks:

Earth, isn’t this what you want?
To arise in us, invisible?
Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly
There’s nothing left outside us to see?
What, if not transformation,
Is your deepest purpose?
Earth, my love, I want that, too.  Believe me,
No more of you springtimes are needed
To win me over – even one flower
Is more than enough.
Sheer abundance of being
Floods my heart.



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