It was our first Diwali in our new home in Goa and obviously we were very keen on creating memorable moments that would last a life-time – ours, and possibly – our children’s. We cleaned and uncluttered the home, made art, decorated many corners, cooked delicacies, clicked pictures, lit candles, diyas (clay lamps), made rangolis. And hey, we even came out of our comfort zone to host a get-together for some new friends that we’ve made here.
You see, all of this sounds quite a bit, especially, with Sufiana in tow. It may even sound like we had a rushed week. But, I have to tell you – amidst all these ‘things’ that we did for Diwali, it was always on top of my mind that I do not want to ‘do’ at the cost of inconveniencing Sufiana (the littlest member in our family). I don’t want to come out of the festival week feeling stressed and rushed. I don’t want a ‘perfect-looking’ Diwali; I want a ‘happy Diwali’.
So, if I could share with you three simple practices that worked for me – worked to keep me calm, centered and mindful during the festival time (that could have otherwise been overwhelming), those have to be:
1. drawing mandalas and other spiritual art
2. chanting mantras and writing them out, and,
3. Squeezing in time every once in a while (in between all the festive cleaning, cooking and decorating) to escape into a quiet room to play with my little one – my little Sufiana.
So, we did as best as we could. I was able to strike a balance – between making it special for Diwali and being there for my baby and being able to enjoy the moments without feeling the stress.
I made delicacies – all delicious and do-able. Not elaborate and time-consuming. There’ll be time for more elaborate dishes.
Similarly, I did make rangolis – small mandalas; lit a few clay lamps outside and inside. Much as I was yearning to light dozens of diyas in every corner of the home and yard – I explained to myself that there’ll be time for such elaborate stuff. But, now is the time to keep it special in a simple way.
The best part of keeping it do-able is that we were able to touch upon many aspects of the diwali celebration – food, guests, decor, art, greeting cards, prayers – and yet had fun and were relaxed and together.
You may wonder how the mandalas and the mantras are among the simple practices that help me. Basically, at their core is one singular thought/choice that I keep close to my heart and on top of my mind.
And it is this –
“we’re here to enjoy the festival by being with each other and not by being busy in a way that the ‘things’ take priority while ‘people’ are ignored.” “Yes, I want to make Diwali special and beautiful and bright and delicious. But, I can do all this WITH my family to the extent that we’re enjoying it together and not burned out and stressed.”
So, where do the mandalas and the mantras fit in, you may still wonder.
I sit down to draw mandalas to center myself and reconnect when I feel I’m exhausted by overdoing the ‘things’. The mandalas help me rejuvenate. So, drawing mandalas was a consistent theme all through the Diwali week. Pari and I made those together as Diwali cards that we ultimately posted to friends and family. Taking a break to draw mandalas is refreshing but other than that it is also a beautiful way to celebrate Diwali through healing art that can be shared with the ones you love – by sending them as greeting cards.
I love it if this small gesture of mine can strengthen the bond between me and the receiver of my card. I feel that if art has any purpose, this is the best of them all – to strengthen relationships; to say that you care, you love – without even using so many words.
The fact that I was thinking of somebody when making that mandala art, isn’t that proof enough that I love and care for that person? And, then posting it to him or her. Pari and I went to the postoffice to send those cards – to Delhi, Bangalore, Sagar. I have to tell you this – when walking back home – hand in hand and the other hand holding umbrella over our heads (the intense Goan afternoons!) – I was feeling good. Like, real good. Like, this is the purpose of my life – spreading love, reclaiming it, forging bonds, caring for my little ones, pursuing small acts of kindness and love.
I chant regularly – Diwali or no Diwali. During the Diwali week especially, we all made sure we chanted every morning and evening – together. This has become our Diwali tradition that we’ll follow every year. Chanting the mantras fill us up with a powerful inner energy that nothing else can provide. It creates an environment that is healing, peaceful and transforming.
I chant these mantras to put Sufiana to sleep; when I’m cooking; in the evenings – whenever I need to center myself. Actually, not just when I need some centering, but also when I’m feeling calm and centered. Yes, that’s also when the mantras come out of me – as if as an after-effect of my calm, serene mind and soul.
Both Sufiana and Pari love it when I chant/sing the mantras. Pari often chants with me, while Sufiana listens intently – without making any sound or action.
Festival times are fun times. But, as I said, they can get stressful, too, for all that you want to accomplish – a clean and beautiful home, sumptuous meals, gifting, visitors, guests. And then, you have the post-festival clean-up and re-organizing…
In the middle of all this, the one person who might end up being at the receiving end is the littlest member in your home – the baby or your toddler – who cannot even talk to express his or her feelings exactly as the child is feeling.
This is the reason that no matter how important a task I’m doing or how ever little time I have in hand to finish it, I’ll drop it then and there, wash my hands, pick my baby up and escape into the room that’s away from the noise and bustle. I nurse her, even though she may not be hungry. That’s one way for us to bond and relax. It calms her senses and mine. It helps me get a breather and for her to express herself by the sounds she makes when she’s feeding. Other than this, we play and laugh on the bed looking into the mirror on the wall. This is her favourite play. She’s trying to stand all the time without support and as she does this, she likes to look at herself into the mirror. After oodles of kisses and hugs and talking and listening and playing, we emerge from the room – she knowing that mamma may go back to finishing the pending work.
I’ve noticed that when I keep reconnecting with her in the middle of a busy day, she’s never cranky and clingy. She understands mamma will be there for her before she starts missing being cozy with me.
So, yes, mandalas, mantras and motherhood – these are connected more closely than one would imagine. The mandalas and the mantras do an amazing job at mothering the mother that I am. “Mothering the mother” – it’s time families pay special heed to this thought. :-)
How was your Diwali, folks? How do you keep the festival stress at bay? What’s your formula? :-)
More Diwali art from our home.
Those water-colour cards at the bottom of the list were made by Pari. Check out her blog post to see those mantra healing artwork. She also shared the thought process behind each art.
Devi (Goddess) mantra (strotam)
painting diyas (clay lamps) with tempera paint – my all-time favourite Diwali activity!
And, finally – if you’d like to know, these are some of the mantras and strotas I chant and recite. These are some of the most powerful Sanskrit mantras – spiritual in essence rather than religious.
“OM BHOOR, BHUVA, SWAHA
OM TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YONAHA PRACHODAYAT”
We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of Sin and Ignorance;
May He open our hearts and enlighten our Intellect.
2. Devi Strotram: Salutations to the divine feminine, the mother – the goddess or the devi and how her energy manifests in our lives:
- YA DEVI SARVA BHOOTESHU,
SHAKTI RUPEN SANSTHITA,
NAMASTASYIE NAMO NAMAH
3. The Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra (the most powerful of all mantras)
Om Triyambakam Yaja Mahe Sugundhim Pusthi Var Dhanum
Urava Ruka Miva Bandhanan Mrityor Mokshiya Mamritat
PS: Pari has written in more detail about this mantra and what it means to us.
5. Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo: To awaken one’s Buddha nature