Finding My Inner Shrine

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” (Hermann Hesse)

Sanctuary – anywhere a person feels especially safe and serene.

I have no doubts that I have often been motivated in travel situations to find places that directly uplift my spiritual soul. Yet amidst theses current fear mongering times of the Corona pandemic, it seems imperative for me to redirect my wandering spirit to find new sanctuaries of inner peace within the confines of my home. No doubt, the glitzy features of modern electronics might engage my attention as I navigate Zoom, You Tube, and Facebook more. For I definitely value the multi-sensory appeal of these platforms as they add new entertainment options of live virtual concerts, digital learning experiences, and enhanced social media communications. Yet I yearn in this time of interpersonal sacrifice for something more real that I can interact with loving touch at will.

It seems then the best solution to my own current dilemma would be for me to design my own spiritual sanctuary(ies) in the imaginative manner of my childhood. For I was indeed a very curious only-child who frolicked in the enjoyment of free play manner. So I recall my youthful passion for collecting marbles, baseball cards, and seashells and how I arranged them in a visually pleasing way. I reminisce now as well what “turned me on” most when designing those intricate sandcastles along Florida beaches. In addition, when rushing home from school each afternoon to my Northern Ohio basement, how did I usually rearrange the mini-town setting surrounding my Lionel Train rail track. Or on those lonely kid times with only a babysitter present, what designs did I often create when spreading “Lego” and “Lincoln Log” pieces along the living room floor?

No doubt, the magically sensory experience of our recent tour of South India will also play a major role in my latest sanctuary thinking here. For so many sights I photographed there ( eg. see below) appear amazingly sublime. Perhaps then you will join me now to create your own shrine(s) of inner bliss in the face of your current lockdown predicament. Namaste.

While walking from our resort hotel to the serene beach along the Bay of Bengal, I discovered this romantic wedding backdrop of crimson glory.

Beautiful floral designs provided a warm greeting as we entered hotel lobbies throughout our tour.

While along city streets, flower power also resonated as a major symbol of civic pride for promoting a welcoming spirit in tourism

At the Mahatma Gandhi Museum in Madurai, I acquired deep reverence for Gandhi’s resolve to make his simple loincloth clothes from a spinning wheel. Such humility pleads strongly for disdain of materialistic excess and finding inner beauty of the human soul.

Alongside a temple in In Mahabalipuran, an open air” field of sacred sculptures seduced my spiritual attention. I then took a mesmerizing look at local craftsman constructing sandstone Buddhas/ sacred elephant sculptures there.

Along one town street near Kochi, this imaginative setting of garbage composed artwork provided a positive emotional diversion from the surrounding blight of poverty and homelessness despair.

While a colorful object shrine hanging from an aging tree provided a relaxing oasis for me from surrounding urban chaos in front of a local storefront in Madurai.

Graffiti clutter was noticeably absent on this Madurai city wall at the beginning of our tour. Instead, I admired these visually uplifting paintings as a welcoming spirit of the Hindu way

Intricate tower designs of ancient Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu provided spectacular “backdrops” to remind me of the depth of spiritual knowledge we would be gaining on our sixteen day tour.

You might notice that my wife has taken the lead for our home sanctuary effort now full of South India travel inspirations. Certainly this inner shrine will grow in the coming days as I add my own artifacts to this much needed antidote in this uncertain time of Corona confinement.

 

 

Matrimandir: A Spiritual Meeting Point

“The Matrimandir is there for those who want to learn to concentrate. No fixed meditations, none of all that, but they should stay there in silence and concentration. A place for trying to find one’s consciousness.”(Sri Aurobindo)

Searching for a spiritual uplift on our second visit to India in late February had become an exhausting task as our “Gate One”tour on day six moved briskly along the urban coast of southeastern Tamil Nadu. Clearly feeling then emotionally unsettled by the noticeable sight of homeless desperation and poverty’s wrath in overcrowded cities, our bus now turned southwest from Pondichierry in mid morning through dense tropical undergrowth toward our next destination, the small town of Auroville. At first glance at this seemingly unremarkable setting of human despair, I thus began to wonder what could possibly interest us here. Yet an early afternoon walk along the peaceful grounds of “Matrimandir” near the center of town would soon dramatically reawaken our spiritual curiosities.

How then could Matrimandi’s futuristic golden orb integrated with a series of soul-filled, nature walks change our world for the better? Why might this unique “Mecca”of spiritual Growth entice you to visit there? I invite you to search for your own answers to these important life questions in observing the following photographic collection.

As our tour entered Matrimandir’s spacious grounds, a colorful line of posters revealed a historic timeline of this spiritual place.

Pausing for a video orientation at the Matrimandir Visitor Center, we learned about the spiritual vision of this place named “Temple of the Mother” inspired by the teachings of India philosopher, Sri Aurobindo.

                                                                                                                        

We began a thirty minute walk through a lush garden area called “peace”, from where a  future planned township of world unity integrated with nature’s harmony would some day radiate  outwards. 

A prominent circular marker at the beginning of the trail enlightened us to twelve qualities of spiritual significance we would be viewing along the way.

Surrounding floral inspirations would enhance our understanding about these twelve self growth attributes in strictly enforced silence.

Beyond a bamboo wall, striking rock formations also focused our attention on the meditative solitude of this special place.

Entering an open green field, we spotted a large golden sphere which seemed to be naturally emerging out of the red earth around.

We would soon learn that the spiritual energy of the orb spacious interior projects from a ray of electronically guided sunlight that falls on pure crystal-glass through an opening at the top of the sphere. Click on the following videos for an interactive view of the orb and surrounding gardens.

At the end of our walk, we opted to “cool off, take some photos, and enjoy a satisfying viewpoint of the orb.

Heading back to the tour bus for our mid afternoon departure, I envisioned with renewed optimism a new world where Matrimandi’s vision matters.

 

Hindu Spirit Ascension

“A spirtually illumined soul lives in the world, yet is never contaminated by it.” (Swami Bhaskarananda, The Essentials Of Hinduism)

I’ve never been particularly enamored by faith-based tenets requiring me to submit myself to organized religion. For I have always embraced the power of finding my own path to right and wrong behavior in each passing moment. So as I explored my spiritual journey of “now” on our recent South India adventure, the fanatical devotion of followers to the Hindu faith seemed at first oddly strange and out of place. Yet as I continued my walks through the stunningly beautiful mazes of temple corridors, each subtle head nod, pleasing eye glance or gentle Buddhistic smile made me surprisingly realize that I had taken the rare step to reach outward of myself to obtain fresh spiritual guidance. I indeed seem mesmerized to this day by the sacred teachings of “Dharma” and “Karma”, the righteous path to Hindu ways.

Thus our recent South India journey has given me good reason to reconsider what best drives me spiritually these days. For Hinduism has shown me the critical need for practicing daily goodness to nourish my “inner soul. In this “trying” time of the Corona pandemic where so many struggle now to stay healthy and survive, I could certainly use such moral guidance. What places that you have visited in your life similarly evoke new ideas of spirituality in your life.”

At many temples I visited, curious Hindu followers crowded near me to humbly rejoice that I would be sharing my photographs for them to see soon.

Despite all the distractions of crowd noise and loud music from a Sunday service, this pious man seated outside the temple, remained determined to study his Hindu Scriptures.

I stared intently at God-like statues in every temple feeling a strong reverence toward Hinduism’s spiritual beliefs.

As I entered this great temple , I observed the welcoming presence of a Shiva- like figure overhead.

Daily offerings inside each temple provided evidence that Hinduism contains a strong spirit of giving.

Dance and music played a powerful role in entertaining holy gatherings in all of the temples I visited on weekends.

Why do these elephants sculpted along temple walls seem so friendly to others? Maybe only a Hindu would know!

Temple life provided a safe, quiet and clean haven for families/friends to bond away from the congested chaos existing in the nearby city. Contrast these two scenes.

Observe the exalted presence of this Hindu spiritual leader at the daily call to temple service .

When a call to Hindu temple prayer began, all eyes paid dutiful attention to the spiritual leader’s daily teachings.

Note: If you are interested in knowing the names of each of the temples described above, please let me know. Namaste

 

Western Ghat Scramble

“The rain on some days whispers to me. Sing it loud. Dance to the core. Fly high with the wind. Forget your sorrows a bit more.“(Selin S.R. impression of Western Ghats)

Crossing into the state of Kerala on day 11 of our South India adventure, our tour bus rose steeply from central lowland plains into the rugged mountains of the Western Ghats. This slow moving road into wild nature’s isolation would hopefully provide us a timely “break” from the urban chaos of our Chennai, Madurai, and Pondicherry visits earlier in Tamil Nadu. The photographic display below documents several Ghats highlights from our , nature-filled days at Periyar National Park.

Ruth and I settled into Elephant Court, a Tiki Hut- like Lodge, in late afternoon and looked forward to quiet time on our patio overlooking this upland sanctuary of tropical bliss for the remaining of the day.

We seemed unprepared, however, that this 1st evening would be filled with jungle uproar of aggressive monkeys, squawking birds, and religious chanting.

So we would decide to join our tour group in booking an optional excursion that night to witness the dazzling theatrics of a local martial arts practice called Kalaripayattu.

When I first heard the word Jeep by our tour guide, I knew it was going to be a very bumpy mountain ride we would join in on the next morning.

Fortunately, the air seemed cooler as our sturdy vehicle dodged potholes on the way up to 4300 feet elevation along the steep mountain called “Ottakathalamedu”.

In spite of the hazy atmosphere beyond, I envisioned a distinct resemblance to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This scenic apex also inspiring pleasing group photos of the men and women separately posing on our tour.

It seemed Ruth got “carried” away raising a Communist flag from an Indian “local” then.

Our very busy 2nd day would continue with a thrilling boat ride through the wildlife sanctuary of Periyar Tiger Reserve.There we observed close up views of elephants, water buffalo, monkeys, and deer but no tigers.

After completing another full day schedule of this action packed, Gate 1 tour, we would finally settle into a night of quiet rest. Oh no! Here came the monkeys again.

My India Spiritual Evolution

“The search for wisdom is a great challenge; to act on wisdom is an even greater challenge.” (Siddhaswarupananda)

Ruth and I have completed an arduous yet exhilarating tour of Kerala and Tamil Nadu regions in South India. During the 20+ hour flights home to Miami, I read an article stating that it’s best for tourists these days to travel conservatively. Following such reasoning, one should be wary of traveling to new places on their own and also limit their visits to well established tourist sites home and abroad. In this era of virus pandemics,religious extremism, and nationalistic fervor, such an argument to minimize travel risk today certainly seems very enticing.

Yet we have no regrets for following our free wandering instincts in South India. For by embracing those “off the “beaten track” moments of unfamiliar culture, food, and religion during the past sixteen days in this strangely sublime country, ten spiritual essentials described below seem clearer to me now.

1. Try meditation for myself not to please others.

2. Embrace the temporary moment of everything that surrounds me. For all must pass.

3.Displaying greater compassion for others will inspire me to find authentic spiritual moments.

4. I cannot seek spirituality. It will find me!

5. Spirituality cannot be bought or sold with my money or physical possessions.

6. Say it, sing it, dance it, or be silent with a spiritual idea. It’s all good.

7. An iPhone or WiFi connection can be a serious impediment to my sustained inner reflection.

8. Divide or unite. I must make that spiritual choice.

9. Be kind to animals to enhance my own soul.

10.Be creative in setting up my own spiritual shrine. I don’t always need a church, mosque, or temple to feed my inner soul.

I want to give special thanks to our Gate 1 tour guide Raj, who encouraged us to be free and daring on our 16 day, South India tour. I invite you to check into more blogging snippets of our South India adventure in the coming days.

How might the following photographs from our South India tour inspire you spiritually?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑