Reindeers are on my mind. And Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity and fortune.
In the run up to the 25th December, I heard that the population of reindeers has decreased by 40% in the last three decades. These mammals, associated so strongly with the merry chap who once a year delivers presents from the sky, aren’t prospering, along with so much else on our planet.
The other day I went to a yoga session where the teacher leading the class talked about the long struggle that was needed to seek out Lakshmi after she was disrespected. The image described was one of a painful and tiring churning, a churning of the primordial ocean that went on for a very long time in the search to reach Lakshmi and thereby re-establish wealth, prosperity and abundance for the whole of nature, encompassing plants, habitats and all sentient creatures from tiny frogs and harvest mice to monkeys, lions, – reindeers – and humans.
Two sides of the same coin
I know very little about Hindu deities but what I heard in this story resonated in the way a good story does. I was reminded of the two sides of a coin that one word can often signify: in seeking economic wealth, personal and community health and wellbeing are often impoverished; looking for abundance of material possessions and status symbols, the health of our planet is reduced and numbers of plants and animal species decrease.
I find it hard to make reference in a meaningful way to what a strange and difficult year 2016 has been. So many words have already been written commenting on, analysing, deploring and despairing what we have seen and experienced this year. But with gods, angels, men with white beards and caribou in the air at this time of year, Janus comes to my mind.
Usually depicted as having two faces, this Roman god looks to the past and the future and is seen to preside over the beginning and end of conflict. He is a god of transitions, of motion, of travelling. The word ‘transition’ does make me shudder at the moment with its association of the US ‘transition team’ which handles the shift from the incumbent President to the President Elect, but maybe we can take something from what Janus symbolises.
As movement and change go hand in hand, perhaps we focus on this and can move in to 2017 with dignity, giving ourselves the gift of hope; maybe we can add to this parcel some restraint and discernment about what else we give to ourselves and others.
A mindful approach for today from a 19th century man
Apparently my grandfather used to say that it was good to get up from a meal feeling like you had space to eat it all over again. Celebrations and festivities rightly call for letting go a little. But this mindful notion embodied by my grandad – a man born in the last decade of the 19th century who fought alongside millions of others in the First World War – if lived out as a rule of thumb, seems like one way of offering a gift to our planet, ourselves and our communities.
It’s something that we can reflect on here and now, as 2017 hovers on the threshold of this old year, and begin to put in to practice too. And it’s a notion that encompasses within it a wonderfully understated and respectful approach in general to our rich world and our place in it.