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Date: Tue Apr 3, 2001
Subject: Durga Shakti

Hey folks,

I am feeling a strong sense of love and devotion for Maa Durga.

This morning I completed my Navaratri practice ritual - 8 nights of all-night, non-stop practice for Durga Puja. Navratri ("Nine Nights") is a twice-yearly festival for Durga, the Demon Slayer Goddess - it's usually over 9 nights but sometimes 10 nights and this time 8 nights. "Durga rides a lion or tiger and holds Visnu's discus, Siva's trident, Varuna's conch shell, Agni's flaming dart, Vayu's bow, Surya's arrows, Yama's iron rod, Kubera's club, Sesha's snakes, and Indra's thunderbolt. Most of the iconography around Durga describes her as a combination of all of the gods' powers." [Ref: (Dead link removed)] She is a warrior goddess, a destroyer of evil and the goddess to appeal to when for aid in traversing difficult times. I appealed to her many times this last week.

Each night I started my practice around 10pm and practised non-stop until dawn. I had set up a separate room for the purpose, a dark room away from any neighbours in the house, so that I didn't disturb their sleep. I made an altar with a picture of Durga and a picture of my Guru-ji, decorated with fresh flowers and illuminated by a lamp. In front of this I set my tabla and practised.

Eight hours of continuous practice is quite an experience I can tell you, especially after six or seven sleepless nights. Each night at some times I was battling sleep, at some times I was practising just like normal, at some times bored and waiting to finish ("only 3 more nights..."), and at some times in another world, completely free mind and free hands. Sometimes my legs were aching so I'd sit sideways and stretch my legs while continuing practice. Sometimes I'd have a biscuit or rasu gullah (sweet) and a sip of Electral with one hand while practising with the other hand. The best times were around 3 or 4 in the morning, when I was deep in tabla mode but not yet anticipating dawn. By this time my fingers felt very easy and the sound was as sweet as I've ever played.

At dawn, I would go for a walk to stretch my legs, do Tai Chi, bathe in Ganga and have a little swim, eat a bunch of bananas and go to bed. After maybe 5 hours of sleep I'd make lunch, go to my lesson, come home and have a nap, make dinner, have a shower and start a new night.

A few related snippets :
Traditionally it's very important not to break the Navratri practice ritual once commenced. For this reason and because it was my first time, I was encouraged not to make a commitment to complete it - just to do what I could. But after I had completed a couple of nights I knew I would make it all the way. Apparently Guru-ji has completed the ritual 19 times, and I'm sure he received much power from it. But the last time he tried it, for some reason he broke the ritual. Later that year he suffered a heart attack and his career was over.

One story from Guru-ji : "Calm and quiet, 4 in the morning, and you are practising. Gegegege Nananana Gegena Gegena Gena...., then suddenly, some voice is coming - 'play this way : ...'." I didn't experience a voice as such, but I know what he means.

Lastly one beautiful story from brother Mischa : One day he offered some deep blue flowers to Durga in a local temple An hour later, he was practising tabla in his room and a butterfly, the same blue as the flowers, flew in and sat on his leg.

Love to all,
Aum Namah Durga

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