What "Diwali" as a Festival of Light means for me (in 2022)

Updated: Oct 25

I grew up in a Hindu Gujarati family in West London. My mother introduced her three young children to the ways of “Diwali”, and I followed the same ways of celebrating the occasion every year for four decades.

I remember gifting Indian sweets in decorative boxes to many relatives, dressing up in shiny sarees, being gifted cash from family members, lighting fireworks in the garden, and visiting large temples for worship of various artistic forms depicting ancient Indian gods and goddesses. It was a very colourful, social, and happy time. What has stayed with me, is the feeling of peace taking in the sight of the ghee candles dancing in the Autumn light, and the scent of sandalwood incense rising up like a serpent.

To accompany the Diwali season, the story of Rama, Sita and Ravana had been preserved over the centuries. I had encountered the story in many different ways - as picture books, school plays, temple sermons, and movies. I felt happy when King Rama with his monkey friends rescued Queen Sita from the ten-headed demon king Ravana. Their return to the kingdom was marked by the lighting of many lights, and as a girl who took in many Disney and Bollywood movies, I longed for the ‘fairytale’.

As the 80’s turned to the 90’s and my sense of self developed, I began to ask questions of why Hindu families did certain rituals for “Diwali”. Often adults would reply with, “It’s to celebrate God”, or “It’s tradition” or “It’s in the book”, I would then ask, “who decided on what was ‘traditional’ and “what’s modern?”, “Are we still doing it right, and how do we know?”, “How have the rituals changed, or should they change?… we change”, and “who wrote the books anyway?”. Adults would give many answers based on what they had received from their parenting and education; responses that somehow did not satisfy me. Over the years, I unconsciously probed people, social groups, books, and the internet for information. I didn’t know at the time, that my search would lead me to someone/something that I still struggle to describe in words sometimes. I see that I had kept searching, for what I have now found.

I must have wondered rather deeply how different religious and spiritual pathways, and social groups explored rituals and festival, and how they celebrated the return of the ‘light’. Thanks to my training in Transpersonal Art Therapy, I was able to meet a new way of exploring Nature’s annual seasonal festivals as a way towards illumination.

Thanks to Biographical Counselling, I realised that I was always looking for Love, and I had to know what it was not, to be able to raise the questions and steadily come to discern Love.

I was looking for a light that was stable, honest and truthful with me; that I could be totally truthful with - one that would participate in my life, no matter what I was working to resolve in myself.

I was looking for a light that could be more friend to me than I could be to myself, until I learned to trust its presence within and around me.

I was looking for a light where I could come to my own truths, in total freedom.

I had been looking for a light that could bridge the ancient ways to what is being invited of me now, and what I would like to bring for others?

At the same time, in my longing for love, I fell into destructive situations that left me carrying guilt and shame. So when love found me, I was frightened; I felt unworthy; I worked hard to push it away.

As I steadily learned to bear and endure through many crises of the soul, I realised that this was what I was experiencing as mental health challenges and physical ailments. I found the light of love by allowing myself to be with the unknown and unfamiliar places, which meant working to set down my intellect at times.

Through my own inner work in freedom, using specific transpersonal arts processes, I realised that illnesses and imbalances are gifts of awakening to deeper feelings that can clarify thinking. As new awareness increased in me over time, I steadily came to my own knowing around “Diwali” and I could notice the similarities of archetypal pictures across many religious and spiritual views of the light, that were not in any books or online.

Today, having taken the last 6 years years away from Diwali, to look at my soul and its content using Anthroposophical arts processes, I appreciate the gift of my sensitivities to recognise authenticity and recognise what is healthy and not.

I feel ready to embrace Diwali in a way that feels relevant for me; that makes sense to me as an archetypal story of inner transformation, relevant for the whole wider cycle of human evolution.

At this time, I see that my sensitivities to the darkness and the light, came in from the splitting that had occurred from early vaccinations, that incarnated my soul too soon. Also, as a child, I had only observed and heard conflict between my birth parents, that led to a bitter divorce and many battles where their three children were placed at the centre. I also heard the adults judging people that were from different castes, cultures, genders, and religions. So, questions around social conflict deepened in my soul, and I am glad that I felt conflicted by the inherited beliefs and views I had received, as it began the journey to make meaning of my life. There was unconscious blaming and projecting feelings and views without any attempt to make ownership for its transformation. So for decades, I held a love-hate relationship with God, my parents, and the structures and systems that I felt had failed to protect my mother.

It had been the spark of conflict that had ignited my longing to find true love.

It had been the violence against my young mother that has ignited my search to understand our inner fire.

It had been the light of wisdom that shone through the uncomfortable digestion of outdated and utilised thinking, that helped me to recognise and accept the light.

Bearing and reordering my bodies memories, helped to uncover some universal home truths that clarified the past and future for me, and helped me to move towards the recognition of goodness, beauty and my life’s responsibility.

During my art therapy training, I discovered that my child self had naturally taken in the thinking of the Indian adults around me. This was what was making me meet certain people, questions, and challenges. This was what was underneath my mental imbalances and physical ailments. An understanding of human development including the soul-spiritual aspects, is vital if we are to meet the crises of this time.

From my personal research, I am finding stability by making sense of what the symbolic and physically lived experience struggles and sacrifices of Christs life story, means for me.

For this years seasonal festival honouring the redemption of the light, I wish to acknowledge the first light. In 2020/2021, as painful as it was to bear his descent from a long time ago, his presence was always of peace and calm. Through the chaos around him, and despite the fear in me, he came like a long-lost friend, through still and moving pictures from his lifetime as a human being.

Today I feel deeply grateful to have found my way towards understanding, reverence and humility, towards not only the ancient Indian gods and goddesses, but all forms across the later epochs of time. Meeting some them in the context of world evolution beyond my little lifetime, whether through dreams or encounters in my artwork, has been both challenging and rewarding.

I thank Rudolf Steiner whose gifts of spiritual insight, helped me to put my life story, my soul pictures, and my experiential unfolding into context, for what feels health-giving for the current time, and includes the original light of Life.

Through living Anthroposophy, I consciously work to build a bridge with what I feel moved towards or away by. Sometimes, it evokes a memory or an impulse in me to take action towards something and I do not know why. I can look back and then begin to understand what had to happen and how I am where I am now. I also embrace flexibility across threefoldness, which helps me to digest inherited thinking around temporal Identity structures. Steadily, I strive to accept the Wisdom, whose symbolic form is woman.

It is Wisdom who lives and radiates in the light. This is the 'fairytale' that I am working towards, that I experience as a truly authentic relationship that individuates and unites - as the Christ-Sophia.

Practically, I do not miss the sugary Indian sweets, the dressing up in scratchy sarees, nor visiting temples that I experience as unhelpful for what is required now.

I sit with the feeling of peace in the company of my ghee candles dancing in the darkness, and the scent of sandalwood incense as I practice form drawing patterns for health (the original science of Diwali rangoli).

This ordering of feeling is the home I had been searching for, and it was within me all along.

Happy Diwali all, and thank you for reflecting my light to me over the years.

A question for some artistic and contemplative inner reflection?

How can I learn to engage the courageous and honourable part of my self, to gather its helpers and resources, to rescue our ancient wisdom, and bring her back to claim her earthly throne beside me in the kingdom of all Life across time and space?

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