Yesterday, I celebrated Maha Shivaratri.
The name literally means “night of Shiva,” and it’s a big celebration in honor of Lord Shiva.
Wikipedia describes it like this:
Maha Shivratri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of Lord Shiva…. Shivaratri literally means the great night of Shiva or the night of Shiva. It is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day of the Maagha or Phalguna month of the Hindu calendar… The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael or Bilva/Vilvam leaves to Lord Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil. In accordance with scriptural and discipleship traditions, penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation, in order to reach life’s summum bonum steadily and swiftly. A week long International Mandi Shivratri Fair held at Mandi in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh every year is one of the major tourist attractions in the state.
I’m not Hindu, and I haven’t been properly introduced to the rituals and ceremonies that should be performed, but I love the beauty and balance of a “male” and “female” God-Goddess pairing – Shiva & Shakti, and I felt like I wanted to participate in this sacred day for Shiva.
So I did.
In my own way.
I kind of fasted – only water all day long, then a very light late dinner (that’s as close to fasting as my skinny, vata body seems to tolerate these days).
I moved my Shiva murti (mini-statue) from its typical place on my bedroom shelf to a more prominent place in my yoga studio/living room, and I put the Shiva lingam (a dark oblong-egg-shaped stone, a friend gave me last year) next to it.
I chanted, “Om Namah Shivaya” (“salutations to Shiva”)and I did repeated Surya Namaskar (moving yoga postures) for about an hour.
I didn’t bathe my lingam in milk or honey (per the tradition) because frankly, I am not even sure how one would “bathe” anything in honey. When I imagine it, all I can visualize is me, hands sticky-stuck to the lingam, trying to turn on my hot water spicket with my teeth, so I can get unstuck.
Most importantly, I spent much of the day thinking about and feeling Shiva – remembering that I came from pure consciousness, and AM pure consciousness, with or without sticky fingers.
I brought a little sacredness into my life by taking the time to Honor Shiva; Life; Consciousness.
I hope my recap isn’t offensive to purists. I don’t mean to be too flippant or glib.
Perhaps one day, I will have a teacher who will show me the right way to celebrate Maha Shivaratri. They say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Clearly, this year, I wasn’t ready for a teacher or the “right” form of observance. In the past, I probably would have let the day pass like any other, just because I didn’t know how to properly “do” it. But this year, I came to realize two important things.
The first is this: I can imperfectly celebrate a sacred occasion and still get exactly what I need from the experience even though I am not doing it “right.”
And the second is even more important: I can turn ANY day into a sacred occasion simply by bringing more consciousness to whatever I do. Sacredness is something we imbue into events, places and objects. The things we see as naturally sacred, like temples and churches — are simply places that have been repeatedly imbued with sacred intentions. In fact, I don’t even have to wait for a holi-day to have a holy day. I can choice to make any day sacred. All I have to do is honor it; honor life; honor all that is.