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Lakshmi, Lotus, and the Shift from Poverty Consciousness to Abundance Consciousness

white lotus flower with leaves in the background

Lakshmi is the supremely great goddess potency of abundance, prosperity, beauty, confidence, and wisdom. She is adorned with extravagant precious jewels and wears the color red, the color of passion. She sits on a white lotus flower which has significant spiritual implications.


The lotus is a symbol of one of the highest spiritual teachings – that the roots of the lotus flower are steeped in the mud. The mud is not bad. It’s needed to nourish the roots that nourishes the flower. 


Lakshmi is in the mud but not of the mud. Her roots are in the mud, just like the lotus flower. Yet the flower remains untouched by the mud. The mud represents our struggles and pain, our individual wounds. If it weren’t for the mud, there would be no flower.


Our capacity to be in the mud and work through our struggles to get to the other side is what nourishes our roots.


Lakshmi represents our capacity to transform our mud into beauty and wisdom. But we have to be willing to feel our feelings and go into the muck, which is often a scary thing. The mud represents our shadow that holds our deepest vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities hold our passions, desires, and our deepest life potencies that, when “unlocked,” feed and nourish the lotus to become a very healthy and beautiful plant.


What lies between the mud and flower is water. Water is purifying. It moves around obstacles and softens the rough edges. Water is also very powerful as it is a tonic for the release of stubborn patterns, imprints of trauma from the past called samskaras. It purifies us and allows us to release our attachments. It softens the crusty old bad habits, like letting a burned pan soak overnight in water to loosen up the crud to be washed away later. 


Water is the vehicle to transform and reveal the lessons in the mud so that they can be actualized in our life. 


Allowing the water element to flow, allowing our tears to flow, is surrendering to the goddess’s waves of healing. Held back tears build up and form a kind of toxic waste dump that eventually festers inside and creates dis-at-ease leading to disease. Tears need to flow every day. Water needs to flow, otherwise it creates a stagnant pond that’s toxic to life. Lakshmi is life. She needs to flow and flourish. 


woman with tears hugging a man

Challenges never come to put us down. They only come when we’re ready to rise up and have a breakthrough. When we go through a challenge and get to the other side, we own the other side. We own the benefits – the pearls of wisdom that come from the challenge.


I recently taught at the inaugural Berkshire Yoga Festival at Jiminy Peak Resort in the Berkshires. This was one of the best teaching experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve taught at many conferences in my past, but this one was different.


I was different. 


In my earlier years, I would feel overwhelmed by the popularity of the “rock star” yoga teachers with their hundreds of students. I had the habit of putting myself down, making myself less than the other presenters. But this time, I felt myself as an equal. 


One of the first teachers I bumped into was Seane Corn. She is the epitome of Lakshmi in every way. Well, she gave me the biggest hug ever, lasting at least 30 seconds! I felt so loved by her. But more than that I felt her love for me, her respect for me as a person, a seeker, a teacher, and as her peer. I felt seen and truly appreciated. We were just human beings hanging out together. She shared with me about some of her struggles during the pandemic which really shifted her. She realized that she had burnout from teaching and traveling too much prior to Covid. The deep rest and pause of Covid did her a lot of good and she’s coming back even stronger now but more connected to her own needs.


In that moment, she showed me her humanness and that she has her own pain and struggles just like me. Instead of putting myself down, I rose up and saw that I can be a support to Seane by offering her my listening, my strength, my heart, my acceptance, and my love.


During the festival, putting myself at the same level as all of the other presenters happened over and over again. With every international yoga rock star I saw, I felt the power of my own life, including all of my gifts and struggles. I owned the benefit of being on the other side of self-diminishment and low self-esteem. I rose up and was ecstatic! 


man teaching a hand mudra gesture to a room of yoga students

I had no self-doubt, no self-consciousness, and no need for anyone to like me. I was just being myself wholly absorbed in the state of my state. I was worthy! I began to see that the students responded differently to me. They offered their respect and love, which they normally do, but this time I was able to receive it fully.


The practice of Lakshmi includes the shift from poverty consciousness to abundance consciousness.


This simple experience at the festival really highlighted the embodiment of Lakshmi in my life. 


In my earlier yogic studies at Kripalu, we were taught that poverty was next to godliness. The more we turned away from the material world, the more spiritual we were. Of course, this was the path of renunciation, a rejection of the world and a rejection of nature, in favor of something higher, separate, better. 


monks wearing yellow robes praying with mala beads

Spirit was seen as superior to nature, not embodied in it. Our practices were always about going for the supernatural. Celibacy was one of those practices. Celibacy was not only about abstaining from sex, but it was also about transmuting our sexual fluids from the down and out path of the masses, to raising it up into spiritual light, or Ojas


Well, let me tell you something about the practice of long-term celibacy. Don’t fall for it! The renunciate path is not for everyone. In fact, not many people succeed at it. It’s steeped in a path of perfectionism which, in my opinion, is a losing battle from the start. The Tantra tells us that we live in a world of non-perfection, which is perfect as it is. We are all perfectly imperfect just as we are. The Nondual Tantric path is about aligning with nature, accepting what is, and going with the flow.


At Kripalu we took vows of simplicity, poverty, and chastity. We got most of our clothes from Vairagya, which was a secondhand dump of giveaway clothes from the guests of Kripalu to the residents. Instead of giving their throwaways to Goodwill, they would drop of bags of fairly decent clothes at Kripalu. For nine years, that’s where I shopped. 


I learned to wear all of my clothes until they wore out! I don’t think that’s such a bad value, but it smacks of poverty consciousness. I didn’t realize that I was on a path of self-diminishment.


After I moved out of Kripalu and began studying Tantra Yoga, the path of the householder, everything shifted. My perspective on life moved from poverty consciousness to abundance consciousness. 


goddess Lakshmi sitting on a lotus flower

Lakshmi teaches that when we adorn ourselves, make ourselves look beautiful, feel beautiful, healthy, and vibrant, we feel better about ourselves. Others will notice our beauty and be uplifted by our presence. When we buy clothes that look good on us and bring out our unique beautiful features, we are honoring the goddess. When clothes feel good on our skin, we honor the goddess by feeling her touch upon us. When we buy shoes that not only look good but fit us well, we’re honoring the goddess.


However, I think we also need to be careful about going in the other direction and being overly extravagant. This is just the other side of poverty consciousness where we try to fill the void we feel inside with material possessions. Lakshmi’s true power is always the place in the middle, which is where her wave of joy crests!


Lakshmi gives us permission to not be cheap with ourselves. That’s one reason why finally, after 15 years, I decided to get a new bike. I love my bike so much. It symbolizes Lakshmi for me. Even though I make a modest living, I choose abundance. When I’m riding now, my smile is so big and wide. My ride is fast, smooth, and effortless. I’m so grateful to have the means, and even more so, the consciousness to choose to align my life with the highest principles of Lakshmi, beauty, self-respect, worthiness, and an appreciation of the divine universal energy in all things.


happy man standing next to his bicycle

May you take a moment to reflect on ways you might be diminishing yourself and with great self-acceptance, choose to rise up – align with Lakshmi and value yourself! May you live in a deeper abundance of beauty, ease, self-acceptance, self-love, and worthiness! You deserve the very best and the highest! 


Namaste,


Todd



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