I decided to go for the smoky look on my third eye today. Sort of. See, today is Ash Wednesday, a religious holiday that Catholics and some other Christians use to mark the beginning of a period of fasting and sacrifice called Lent, which is in turn used to prepare for the celebration of new life at Easter. Although I no longer practice Catholicism, I was raised in the church and certain observances still have a place in my heart. So for the first time in many years I attended Catholic mass this morning and received a smudge of ashes on my forehead. I began to reflect on the tradition of anointing the forehead, which is mentioned in the Jewish scriptures and used in many Christian ceremonies as well. Of course in yoga the space between the eyebrows is known as ajna, the third eye chakra, which opens up our spiritual eye and gives us intuition and perception beyond the physical. Many people have argued for many years about many aspects of religion, so when different belief systems actually agree on something I figure it must be important. My personal journey has taken me from being a Catholic to an atheist to something of a new age hippie yoga teacher. I love the song “Many Roads” by Trevor Hall, in which he says, “There’s many roads and many paths that lead to you. Some say they’re false but I believe all of them are true.” If someone is pure of heart with an earnest desire to find something greater than the self, he or she will succeed. I believe that god, truth, the universe, nature, and whatever other higher power or force that may exist all have one commonality—love. To me, god is love. The only paths I consider false are the ones that lead to hate. And sometimes humans, with our finite wisdom, try to decide what god, in its infinite wisdom, wants for us. And sometimes that leads us down the wrong path. God wants us to love, simple but not easy. I think it is fitting that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day as well. Although some people complain that it has become over commercialized, I still like to acknowledge the day in its pure form, a celebration of love of all types. When they put the ashes on your head, the phrase is uttered, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” To me, the ashes are not a mark of sadness or death. They are a reminder that we have only a limited amount of time and energy on this earth between our first breath and our last. That divine spark that animates our flesh will someday leave the body. Where it goes or what happens after is a mystery, but the matter that we are made of will eventually return to dust. So make the most of the time you have, focus on love. Remember you are love and to love you shall return. Find the divine spark in each sentient being you encounter. Make the most of each breath. Namaste.
February 13, 2013