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Puja Incense – Writing Class Homework

I am taking a writing class specifically geared towards writing a memoir by an awesome friend of mine who has written many!

Since “Baptism By Flame” is my memoir about my fire…I decided this is the class I needed to take, and I am SO glad I did.  She is giving us lots of drills with writing, and this last bit of homework I did today made me cry…so I wanted to share it.

We were given the homework of writing a page and a half or so about a specific thing that has happened to us using a word we chose from a list of things.

I chose the word “Incense”…here is what came out of me at Urth Cafe as I typed through tears today, an hour before class:


I awoke to the song of a Tibetan singing bowl at 4am. The full moonlight was cascading on the wooden floors showing the wind dance of the Oaks watching over our cabin. The smell of last night’s camphor and Sandalwood-rose incense still permeated the air.

I immediately felt the rush of energy coursing through me…this was the morning. THIS was the grand finale of the week long silent meditation retreat…this was my Kali Puja, where those of us retreating within the Santa Barbara Mountains will burn out of our lives that which no longer serves in order to make room for that which we desire and deserve this lifetime.

We walked in silence into the cold darkness being guided only by moonlight and smoke from the Puja Fire.

Waiting for us in the middle of a beautiful Oak Grove was Ma Devi dressed in her finest white Sari prayed over by Saints and sewn with love in India by the devotees of Ammachi, the Hugging Saint.

Again Sandalwood-Rose fills the air as she begins to clap, chant and dance around the fire burning oils in lamps, throwing flower petals in water, pouring milk over statues and calling in the omnipresent ones.

Her beautiful dance was accompanied by the sound of Tabla drums, Indian bells, a vibraphone humming tunes of devotion. We were all using our voices within songto call out to God/Goddess/Buddha/Krishna/The Universe/Amma/The Flying Spaghetti Monster…WHOEVER we saw fit to thank for releasing us from the binds of the past in order for us to flow freely down the beautiful river into the vast ocean of the future.

The Bhajans grew in intensity…our voices getting louder and louder as we sang Hindi in call and response style until we weren’t sure who was calling and who was responding. Instead we just called out using our voices in any language that came out of us…the language of devotion and bliss.

Drum beats getting faster, voices louder, fires raging, hands clapping raw until it happened…Ma Devi arose from her perch at the head of the Puja Fire and asked for us all to come up one at a time and receive Prasad, which is a blessed food to eat. She instructed us to know that all that we have prayed to receive during the Puja was well on its way to us.

I was ecstatic at this point with the hours of meditation, singing, clapping and spiritual energy flying around our group of 20. With tears of joy running down my face, I crawled up to Ma Devi with my hands cupped to receive her blessing.

A delicious mixture of rice, honey, raisins and love was put into my hand, and I ate it…knowing that all that I desired and deserved was flying towards me at warp speed.

As I turned and made my way back to the fire…the sunrise caught my eye through the mighty Oak branches, and I silently laid in the grass allowing the new dawn to wash over me while I rested within its Divine light as the smell of Sandalwood-rose filled the air, my heart and my soul.

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