On Creating Abundance

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I found some scissors, and did something I had never done before. I cut the six stems, put them into a mason jar with some water, and brought them with me. I figured that that was going to be it for this years blooms. And yet, abundance had other things in mind. A couple of days later, cutting the grass on that side of the house, I glanced over at the rose bushes, and paused. Every rose bush that I had cut from for the puja, seemed to have been bloomed a half a dozen new roses.

The simple abundance of a rose…

I saw the last minute request for additional flowers for the puja ceremony just as I was about to head out. If I were to try and find them at a store, I would surely be late. What about the roses that have been late-blooming because of the summer-like weather? A quick check revealed that there were at least a half dozen new blooms, which would be worthy of the offering at the ceremony for the Devi.

How was this possible, this late into autumn? I guess I had grossly underestimated the power of abundance, and the energies that create it. At this time of the year, the symbols of the harvest the are everyone. Corn stalks, bales of hay, pumpkins in orange, baskets of mums in various colors, and much more. And then there is the abundance of pies in pumpkin, pecan and apple, along with all the goodies of the season dashed with spices and cinnamon.

A walk through the forest has its own signs of abundance. The riot of colors on the trees, the paths quickly filling with leaves, and bushes laden with berries to help the birds through the winter ahead. If we pay attention to how nature prepares for the seasons, we can learn how to appreciate, and prepare for the transitions in our own lives with abundance mentality.

It is easy, and perhaps even seem natural for some of us to focus on what we want or what we lack in our lives. It is actually equally easy for us to recalibrate our heart, mind and body towards abundance and open the channels for prosperity to flow into our lives. This attitude towards being content and fulfilled, and appreciating the gifts that we hold within us, is often called gratitude.

No matter what the season, we can create experiences of abundance for us. A single leaf, a flower petal, a drop of water, a crystal of sugar, is enough offering, when presented with a full heart. In such simple offerings made with gratitude, we plant seeds of a cornucopia of abundance that can be experienced by our hearts, and the hearts of those around us.

What offerings can we bring our hearts to make, to create abundance this season?

Kumud

P.S. Join our weekly gathering with the #SpiritChat community on Twitter, Sunday October 17 at 9amET / 630pm India. Bring a piece of pie, or a flower to share 🙂 Namaste – @AjmaniK

puja – a religious ceremony honoring a deity by invoking all the five elements, and the body, mind and spirit…

Devia deity representing the creative energy of the divine feminine

And just like that, the house has been filling up with gifts of flowers this week…

The Energy of Transformation

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It’s autumn… and the forest welcomes me back…

It was an exhilarating return to the river reservation in the valley, after an entire summer of absence. The overcast skies and a light rain were not enough to deter me from visiting and checking on the health of my good friends. And so, I walked the wet and narrow fisherman’s trail by the river, and was welcomed with a familiar energy. It felt like a homecoming.

The transition to autumn was well underway in the forest, as there was already a thin carpet of wet leaves on the trail. The river nearby was calm and almost still, except for the the sound of raindrops falling steadily and sending ripples everywhere. The bright yellows on the trees were resplendent in the Noon hour, even under graying skies. The orange hues were beginning to emerge among the yellows and their stillness enveloped me, invited me to stand still so that the forest could do its work.

And so I paused, stood still, closed my eyes, and allowed the energy to do what it needed to do. The murmur of the river,

the play of raindrops on my head, the light scent of the lavender blooms, the holding of the earth beneath and the canopy of the trees and sky above – the cumulative energy and effect of it was all a bit surreal. Twenty four hours later, as I write about that energy infusion, my heart is still processing the experience.

It wasn’t like I hadn’t walked the particular part of the reservation, many many times before. And yet, this journey on a familiar path was transformative. I cannot explain why this experience was so different from all the ones I’ve had before. Maybe it feels transformative because this is the most recent experience and I have forgotten about the impact of my precious walks? Maybe it feels transformative because I have been diligent in my daily meditation practice, which in turn has made me more sensitive to the energy of the forest as it undergoes its own transformation? Maybe it is because I went into the walk without any expectation other than to simply walk, feel, touch, listen and immerse in the energy?

Perhaps the ‘why’ of the transformative energy isn’t as important as the direct experience itself. When does the energy flow around us become transformative? The first step is when we take steps to cleanse ourselves of the heaviness of anger, hate and energy-draining emotions – we balance our tamas, our propensity towards negativity. The second step is when we take steps towards proper actions in all our activities – we balance our rajas, our propensity towards outward activity. The balancing of tamas and rajas opens us to creating sattva or purity within, and allows for energy to reach deep into our heart.

In the perfect balance of our three propensities, we are ready to integrate, assimilate and propagate the energy which is forever flowing within and without us. On our spiritual walk, we now realize that every flower, every leaf, every drop of rain, every step on the trail, every living being, conveys energy to and through us. We awaken to discover that the door has been opened for us to transform into Shakti – that divine energy of protection, love, grace, and joy limitless.

And to think that it can all begin with a simple visit with a friend…

Kumud

P.S. Join us Sunday, October 10 at 9amET for our weekly gathering on Twitter in #SpiritChat. Sunday marks the mid-point of the nine-day Hindu festival of Navratri, which celebrates the ‘Energy of the Goddess’. Enjoy the transformation! Namaste – @AjmaniK

A station on the trail… time to pause and absorb…

The Heart’s Heritage

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As I stepped onto the trail on the beautiful, cool and crisp morning of the first day of October, I was reminded yet again of the forever giving heart of nature. I had been thinking of my cultural, religious and family heritage over the past week, and in her quiet and expansive welcome, it occurred to me that Nature is also an integral part of my heritage.

There is a period of two weeks in the autumn where Indian tradition pauses to remember, honor, and give thanks to the roles of our ancestors in our lives. The two weeks often coincide with the solstice — a period when all of nature seems to pause as it transitions from one season to the next. A period of transition can be a good time to ask some questions. Where did we come from? Where do we want to go? How may our ancestors and our heritage influence our journey ahead?

As we answer these questions, we may discover some parts of our heritage that have served us well on our journey so far, and other parts that may have held us back in some way. The weight of tradition informed by our strong fidelity to our heritage can often prevent us from exploring new paths on our spiritual walk. How do we balance our desire to honor our inheritances and be truthful to our heart’s voice?

We pause and we listen deeply. We examine our written and spoken heritage — and there is a lot of that, often an overwhelming amount, in Indian culture. We adopt and adapt the cornerstone truths and principles from our heritage that are congruent with our heart-led journey. As we walk forward on our path towards self-awareness and direct experience, we may discover that we have gradually derived our personal inheritance from our vast heritage.

How do we know that our personal inheritance, which may be in the form of our preferred spiritual practices, is right for our journey? One way to know try our chosen practices, and then to ask – do they add to our joy, increase the light within our heart, create lightness in our steps, inspire us to create a living legacy?

A rose blooms in October… a new legacy begins

Yes. There are a lot of questions we ask and want answers to regarding our heritage, inheritance and legacy. As I paused and kneeled on the path, letting the Sun that was apparently standing still, shine the same sunlight that it has streamed on my ancestors for generations fill my heart, I felt a deep connection to the permanent.

Maybe That is perhaps the heart’s true heritage.

Kumud

Autumn’s light streams through the trees… a reminder of permanence and heritage

Ingredients for Happiness

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Every single muscle in my body seemed to be hurting. In addition, I was made aware of muscles that I didn’t even know I had. That’s what the better part of a day spent hauling mulch and power-washing does to a body used to sitting in front of a computer most days.

And yet, I was brimming with a feeling of happiness. Why? I had just spent an entire, beautiful autumn day working the annual ‘Day of Service’ at my daughter’s school. I wasn’t happy simply because i had spent the day volunteering. It was a combination of a few key ingredients.

According to Arthur Brooks in ‘how to build a life’, most people experience happiness when three ingredients come together. The first ingredient is Fun! Was volunteering fun for me? Absolutely! The entire school, including students, faculty and staff was out and about doing various service projects. It was fun watching them in action, and it was even more fun working alongside my wife as we got covered in dirt and grime and water fairly quickly. And who doesn’t have fun with power tools that make work easy?

Do you remember the last time you had Fun? When was it, and what were you doing?

The second ingredient is Satisfaction. Is volunteering satisfactory? Absolutely yes! After a full week of not-so-satisfying intellectual gymnastics at ‘work’, a day of manual labor was immensely satisfying. It was a sort of ‘deep cleansing’ that the brainbox appreciated greatly by the middle of the day. By the end of the day, my brain was so deeply flushed that I had forgotten how to spell my name. Not really, but you get the idea. I was thoroughly satisfied with the results of the work done, even though I knew that it would have to be done again in a year. The satisfying feeling would pass, like water through a colander, and yet, it felt good to experience it in the moment. It was like a cup of good tea!

When was the last time you felt deeply satisfied? What brought on the feeling?

The third ingredient for happiness is Purpose. We often ask the big questions like what is our life’s purpose, why are we here and so on. These are good questions to ask because they give us a framework with which to align our actions. I hadn’t imagined that a day of manual labor would feed my sense of purpose, but the fact that there were so many other folks on campus working together towards a common goal, made it so. At the end of the day, it surely felt like I had done something meaningful and purposeful. The years of black grime on the concrete walls of the auditorium had been forever banished!

The combination of the three ingredients of fun, satisfaction and purpose created happiness. I think there was a fourth ingredient that was the cherry on the happiness cake – connection. I got to see and chat with so many teachers from previous grades, staff I hadn’t seen in a while due to the pandemic, and more. I heard wedding stories, birth and death stories, college graduation stories, and much more. It all felt good and my heart was smiling by the end of the day.

I didn’t go to seek happiness today at the ‘Day of Service’. It went thinking I would ‘serve’ in the hours before lunch and then ‘work work’ after lunch. I ended up staying the whole day because I could feel my happiness tank getting filled, even as my physical tank was getting drained. The result? One of the happiest days of the week.

I encourage you to reflect on your happiness creators. When is the last time you were having fun, feeling satisfied, doing something purposeful and creating connections, all at the same time? Was that when you felt you were face-to-face with happiness? Or are there other, different ingredients that create happiness for you?

Kumud

P. S. Join us for our weekly community gathering, Sunday Sep 26 at 9amET / 630pm India in #spiritchat on Twitter. Share your keys to happiness with us. Namaste ~ @AjmaniK

Autumn Mums changing color… spreading happiness

Messengers of Peace

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I decided to change course, and return to one of my favorite birding trails for my weekly Friday morning walk. Although it is less than ten minutes from my home, I hadn’t been there since spring. Now, with autumn at our doorstep and the migratory season underway, I figured it would have some new gifts of peace for me.

Two things typically happen when I step into the walking and birding trails in the various reservations around my town. First, and almost instantly, a sense of peace embraces me for it feels like I’m transported back into a cocoon of grace. Second, and this can take a few minutes, the poetry and prose muse returns and gets me writing. As I walk, I do my best to gather the messages that the messengers send my way in my memory, so that none may get lost.

Today’s first message was from the bridge spannning the pond covered with thick green algae. The excessive rain this summer has created such dense foliage and shrubbery everywhere that the bridge was barely visible from the trail. And yet, its welcome was as warm as always. And so, I did the ritual that I often do midway through every bridge crossing. I chanted an invocation, a mantra, asking for peace to radiate to all of humanity. Sarve bhavantu sukhinah. May all be at peace.

The bridge led me to the major section of the trail which winds its way through a canopy of woods. The sun was rising slowly and there was plenty of opportunity to simply stand and stare every so often for a few minutes at the play of orange and yellow streaks backlighting the leaves. Another peace chant. Bhumi mangalam, Vayu mangalam, Gagan mangalam. May the earth, wind and skies be filled with peace and prosperity.

The half or so mile under the canopy opens up into a trail that is flanked by two huge bodies of marshy water. Giant egrets, standing as still as the Sun in the sky, dotted the waterscape on both sides. Parts of the marsh had been taken over by natural fields filled with yellow flowers. Another peace chant followed. May the peace of the fauna and the flora find its way to us.

On my way back through the canopy, I asked myself the question – does nature instill new peace within me or does it serve to remove the clouds that often form the canopy that block my view of the peace within me? Perhaps nature is the mirror that reflects, maybe amplifies the level of peace that we bring to her. Our perceived lack of peace is perhaps merely our heart looking for someone to listen to us with love, and make us aware of all the prose and poetry that we already carry within us.

No matter the medium, the messengers and messages often repeat themselves. Truth. Kindness. Silence. Stillness. Joy. Consciousness. All the messages are simply reminders that all of the Peace that we need or desire is already within us.

May we remember.

Kumud

Join us on International Day of Peace, Sunday Sep 19 at 9amET / 630pm India for our weekly gathering on Twitter. Bring your message of Peace to share with the #SpiritChat community. Namaste ~ @AjmaniK

Nature’s Messengers… radiating peace…

On Service and Healing

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By the time I completed my one or so hour’s weekly Friday morning walk on the trail, the landscape had changed considerably. The sun had risen higher in the sky above the trees, the shadows were shorter, the trail was brighter.

Let me go back to the start of the walk. A flock of migrating geese had laid claim to part of the trail’s entrance, which made me navigate a longer path than usual. Fair enough. They were there first, and they needed to feast on the grass more than I needed to walk on it! They did yield a bit of ground when they saw me, but I could sense from some honking that they were none too happy about it.

A few minutes into circling the pond, I saw a blue heron fly over with silent, effortless grace. It must have seen me coming, and as usual, wanted nothing to do with any human this early in the morning. A short while later, I managed to stir a gaggle of mallard ducks off of the pond. I was now three of three in managing to disturb three different sets of birds in a span of a few minutes. I surely wasn’t serving or healing them in any way today!

And yet, I felt my engagement with them, wordless as it was, serving me on this day as I processed some of my memories and emotions from twenty years ago. The highest example of service set by the first responders, fire fighters, police, medical personnel and thousands of others on that day is part of American history. Never to be forgotten. They served because they were compelled to answer the calls, and many paid with their lives for it. A lot of them, their families and friends, are still suffering, processing their grief and healing from that day.

As I continue my walk, I feel a sense of gratitude sweep over me for the fact that I was a witness to their acts of service. A sense of healing followed from the awareness that every one who served someone on that day became part of that history. The good karma of their service, and the healing that it effected, is forever embedded in their hearts and the hearts of those they served. Such is the nature of all acts of kindness, of goodness, of service to others — they all purify the server’s heart in ways big and small. Healing follows for the server and the recipient.

And so, I continue to walk the path because I have been inspired by so many who have oriented my heart towards an awareness to serve, to heal, and be healed in the process. I may not be able to serve everyone that I may come across – and just like the three sets of birds, I may even annoy them, but never mind that. I know that opportunities to serve will keep unfolding. I know that if I keep waking, walking and seeking, then it shall be given.

The Bhagavad Gita and many other scriptures say — Purify the heart through service or Seva and all the treasuries of truth, awareness and bliss shall be opened to you. That’s my inspiration to serve. I hope you find yours.

Kumud

P.S. Join in for our weekly virtual walk and Twitter gathering in #SpiritChat – Sunday September 12 at 9am ET / 630pm India. We will serve tea and cookies, and heal together. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Serving and healing the community by planting new flowers…

On Emerging into Lightness

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There is a heaviness in the air as the first dense fog of the season is upon me this morning. Visibility is down to a few dozen feet as I drive out of the neighborhood towards school. However, as soon as I turn on to the Main Street, I barely go a quarter of a mile and it’s absolutely clear. It’s as if I emerged out of a ‘heaviness cocoon’ and into the lightness again. However, my mind cannot seem to shake the experience off that quickly.

The heaviness continues on my weekly walk around the lake after the drop off at school. The grass is heavy with moisture and soaks into my socks. I come under heavy attack by the mosquitoes as I approach the water. The water itself is heavy with algae from shore to shore. A lone mallard duck braves the swamp as she ever so slowly swims in the middle of the green coating formed over the past few weeks. Some of the bushes around the lake are heavy with the last of summer’s berries.

As I cut my walk around the lake a bit short so that my don’t become a feeding trough for the biters, I am beginning to think that today’s walk has been a bit of a wash. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I see one my daughter’s teachers coming my way. In all my Friday walks, I have never seen another human on the trail. I feel a bit of lightness at the sight of a fellow traveler. We have a short but nice chat about yellow jackets and mosquitoes, and the scavenger hunt he is setting out for the students.

The encounter lasts for less than a minute, but it helps me turn the corner towards lightness. As if on cue, I notice that the sun is emerging through the gloom. By the time I walk back to my car, the heaviness of a few minutes ago has become a distant memory. All I feel as I journal my morning experience while sitting in the driver’s seat is the lightness infused by the ever-so-brief human interaction with a fellow traveler. The rising warmth from the sun as it crests the tall  trees in the distance confirms my feeling. 

By the time I make the short drive back home, it is as if the fog had merely been a dream. And yet, I knew that it was real because I had seen it with my own eyes, heard its stillness and felt its heaviness in my mind. This wasn’t my first experience of waking up to dense morning fog, and yet I had let it so rapidly blindside my feelings and emotions. How can a single external stimulus send us into heaviness, if ever so briefly? 

And then came more questions. 

What symptoms tend to make us aware that we are in a mental or spiritual ‘fog’? What purpose or message may the energy of lightness our way?  What kind of awareness can we develop so as to preserve our equanimity of lightness?

Autumn is on its way. There will be a lot more fog-laden mornings on the mind’s lake. It’s time for me to find some answers, so that I don’t get blindsided again. How about you?

Kumud

Join us for our weekly gathering with the #SpiritChat community on twitter on Sunday, Sep 5 at 9am ET / 630pm India. We will discuss ways to emerge into lightness… Namaste ~ @AjmaniK

 

The lightness of every rose is unaffected by the thorns that surround it…
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A Spiritual Return to School

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The first day of return to school is often a shock to the system. No matter how much you prepare for it, the fact is that you are jolted out of the long sleep of ten or so weeks of summer. The signal of change is unmistakable as all the lights that had been flashing yellow over the past week or so suddenly change to green… it’s time to move forward and meet the early waking hour again.

There is a certain stillness about the world in the new waking hour that I am glad to welcome back. There is a return to a routine, a structure, a familiar purpose that I am glad to return to. And it isn’t just me. The entire household, including the puppies, seem to have been jolted into the ‘return to school’ mode.

Like many mornings this summer, it’s humid, warm, gray and overcast today. It doesn’t quite feel like autumn yet, but our bodies and the trees outside seem to be ready for it. We are ready to welcome the change in color and the chill in the air that makes you clasp your hands around the mug of tea a bit tighter as you first walk out onto the deck to check what kind of weather is approaching from the west.

She is more than ready, though. The excitement of a new grade, new teachers, new subjects, new friends and much more has her bubbling over with enthusiasm. We take our “first day” photos at the top of the steps overlooking the lake — her puppy joins in and they both enjoy some special moments. And then, just like that we’re off for the ride to school.

It’s one of those days where I wish the car ride was a bit longer. She is talking a hundred miles an hour about the subjects and her new teachers – Math, History, Chemistry and more. It’s all pouring out and I’m happy to watch the resumption of flow that had been seemingly at a standstill for the past few weeks.

As I drop her off with a quick goodbye, she has a quickness in her step that I haven’t seen in a while. As much as she looks forward to the beginning of summer every June, she looks forward to her return to school in August even more. It is a sign that the village is raising her well, and that return to school is much more than just the academics, the sports, the extra-curricular and such.

How does all this connect to our inner spiritual life?

Return to school can be a reminder of an embrace of possibilities, adventures, and detours that await us when we are dunked into the alphabet soup of human beings and their variant personalities. It is an invitation to remain young at heart, to embrace every new day with freshness, curiosity and preparedness for the possibilities that will unfold.

We are ready for our return to school. We’ve been ready for a while. A new inner awakening is just a sunrise or moonrise away for us. Let’s simply choose to return to it with childlike joy and delight!

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly chat on Twitter – Sunday Aug 22 at 9amET / 630pm India in #SpiritChat. Bring your open mind and heart. I will bring the tea and cookies and school syllabus 🙂 – @AjmaniK

A walk around the school campus on the first day back..

The Observer’s Journey

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Why does a sunflower even exist? What is it that it takes from the world? Is it not simply an observer of the world around it? To be a seeker of the Sun and spread its attendant light and goodness – is that not the sole purpose of sunflower’s journey?

All these questions came flooding into my mind as I took shelter under the trees near the river bank. In my return to the walking trails on Friday morning, I had been caught in a sudden downpour. The invitation was to pause and observe even more intently than I typically do when I am walking. The river was already swollen from the week’s rain, as was evident from the swift currents flowing through some of the typically dry channels near the shore.

As the rain intensified, I bided my time observing the changes in the 200 foot bluff on the far bank, the slight yellowing of the canopy of leaves under which I stood, the tributaries formed by recently fallen tree trunks, and more. But where were the sunflowers I had been hoping to see on today’s walk? Not a one in sight so far.

A break in the downpour meant it was decision time – do I continue the walk or do I call it a walk and return to the car that was parked a few hundred feet away? One sweeping look at the dark skies gave me the answer. I would walk back to the car, along the trees lining the shore, so that I could take in a little bit more of the river’s majesty on this day.

In my dozens of previous walks past this location, I had never ventured to this tree-lined section of the river bank. I had no idea that I would be welcomed by a bevy of wildflowers a few hundred feet later! Many of them had seen better days, but there were a few that were still seeking the Sun and attracting bees. A stairway of tree roots led me down to the very wet bank, and as I turned around to return, there they were. Dozens of them in full glory, reaching skywards, each yellow flower seemingly pulling their companions higher on their respective journeys.

It was in that moment that I realized what I had missed most about “working from home” during the pandemic. I had missed the serendipity of days like this where I could simply go observing and be filled by the joy of the infinite beauty that surrounds me. Yes, one doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to observe beauty, but sometimes, the journey amplifies the joy of the experience.

The same amplification is perhaps true of the seeker’s, the observer’s journey into the within. The pandemic, and the hours saved in commuting to work, gave me the extra time every day to commit to my inner observations. What is my mind doing with this sensory input? Why are my emotions rising or falling in response to this observation? Where did this flash of anger spring from? What is the state of the light within my heart? Am I remembering to focus on simply being the observer and not the reactionary, the evaluator, the arbiter of my daily observations?

If we choose clarity and openness, we can eventually arrive at a point where we go beyond self-observation and ask – who is the One who is the real observer? When we arrive at that answer, we can know the truth of Oneness. Until then, we continue to take joy in the Sunflowers of the world that unceasingly, unfailingly, and ever so joyfully remind us to keep our heart pointed towards the light. Namaste.

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly Twitter chat, Sunday Aug 15 at 9amET / 630pm India in #SpiritChat w/host @AjmaniK ~ Namaste

Yes… every (imperfect) yellow flower on the journey… is a perfect Sunflower 🌻 to me 🙂
Not really a ‘sunflower’, but a Sunflower in this observer’s heart 🙂

On Mystical Music

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Pre-dawn bird symphonies
Eastward the swallow flies
Crescendo of Cicadas
Announces the heat’s rise

Late afternoon fluttering
Arrival of Monarch butterflies
Flying in effortless tandem
The whispers of dragonflies

Moths resting on wildflowers
Under clear blue summer skies
A hummingbird near evergreens?
Oh, such a sweet surprise!

The soft breeze twirling purples
In channels where rainwater lies
The sunflowers embrace grace
Closing till the next sunrise

Soft veil of late dusk
Broken by fireflies
The heart comes mystically alight
So what if it took a million tries?

If we still ourselves enough, it seems to be everywhere. The music of the mystical is the intangible rhythm of the universe that helps us attune our heart, again and again, to who we truly are.

Music that is in harmony with our heart can hold us, create time and space for us, and eventually heal us in ways that are beyond the limits of our intellect. No words need to be spoken in order to align our natural vibration with that of the universe. Such is the beauty of mystical resonance that has the ability to raise our energy amplitude to levels we never knew that we were capable of.

May we make time and space to immerse in that universal music. May we have the courage to sing our song, and the patience to hear their songs. May we accept the invitation to be the raindrop that merges in the ocean with love, and experiences the oneness that is a sweet harmony of truth, awareness and joy.

May the mystical music move us to sing our heart’s song, so that we may manifest all of the divinity within us.

Namaste.

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering in #SpiritChat on twitter, Sunday Aug 8 at 9amET / 630pm India. Bring your favorite music to share, as we chat over tea and listen to some butterflies🦋 ~ AjmaniK

The music of wildflowers in the rainwater channels