By Theresa Puskar –
“Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams—they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do, they all contain truths.” — Muhammad Ali
When I arrived at this year’s TheosoFEST, I was delighted right from the get-go! The opening ceremonies began with an honoring of all religions and beliefs. Ten representatives from a variety of traditions shared rituals, chants, prayers and scripture, each of which united in speaking the language of love. The opening ceremony participants included Diane Eisenberg – Judaism, Mazher Ahmed – Islam, Danelys Valcarcel – Hinduism, Quentin Young – Native American, Jim Percic – Bahai, Amarjit Singh – Sikhism, Christine Pateros – Shamanic, Theodore M. Utchen – Humanist, Diana Cabigting – Christianity and John Cianciosi – Buddhism. I was moved by the breadth of ways in which each celebrated the divine. They were true to their traditions, and in their own unique way, opened hearts and minds to the beauty and distinct voice of their practices.
As I have shared in previous articles, I am so blessed, as I experience so many graces when I attend these events, synchronicities that advance my journey towards deeper healing and greater consciousness. This event was no exception!
“Trying to find peace and joy without calming the mind is like arranging items on a table while an earthquake shakes below it.” — Chaitanya Charan Das
The first workshop I attended was Overcoming Negative Emotions with Chaitanya Charan Das. While he is now a monk, mentor and spiritual author of 16 books, at one time he was employed as a software engineer at a prominent multinational software corporation. After seeing how stress, depression, addiction and overall misdirection were all caused by a lack of spirituality, he felt a calling to share the spiritual wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita with the world. In this particular workshop, he shared insights on how changing our conception can free us from negative emotions.
Based on the bhakti tradition from the Bhagavad Gita, he explained that negative emotions, such as anger, lethargy, greed, addiction, depression and anxiety are created by our conception. Citing a scenario in which a woman commits suicide because her boyfriend did not answer her phone call, he explained that her conception was the cause of her strong negative emotions. Likening the mechanics of the emotions to technology, like a computer virus, her programming infected the software of her mind. Like her, while we can’t control the outer world, we often allow negative conceptions to settle within us.
The way to free ourselves from this virus is to identify ourselves with our inner screen. To do so, we need to identify our emotions as opposed to identifying with them. While he assured us that he was not talking about suppressing emotions, but to view them unattached, as if we were watching ourselves on a movie screen. Then we can process them, understanding that we are not the screen. We are the seer. Seeing the difference between inner seer and inner screen helps us identify our emotions, as opposed to identifying with them. Once we understand that we are the inner seer, we can go beyond expressing emotions to processing them in a healthy way. Ultimately, by connecting with the supreme seer, we can overcome the negative and cultivate emotional health and positivity.
I have recently been working on anger, and feelings of impatience, especially with others in my life who are critical. Of course, I know that being triggered by their judgmental disposition, I need to do further work on my own inner critic. This reminder that I am the seer and not the drama on the screen within my mind was further support as I strive to fully love and accept myself.
“TheosoFEST is an annual open house mind, body, spirit festival celebrating the wisdom of the ages, the unity of all life, and spiritual self-transformation.” — Theosophical Society
There were many vendors at the festival, two of my favorites being Kristin and Frank Panek’s Flowering Heart Center and Bharat Kalra and his healing pyramids and meditations. Both are really transforming and growing as spiritual communities. The Flowering Heart Center just opened a radiant new venue in Wheaton, and Bharat has just created some wonderful new audio meditations that assist you in deeper relaxation and reflection, creating a greater sense of peace and wellbeing.
“The red ant taught me that I need to learn to overcome obstacles and ask for help.” — Quentin Young
The second workshop I attended was Quentin Young’s Mitakuye Oyasin and Mother Earth: A Native American Teaching. Mitakúye Oyasin is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life, including other people, animals, birds, insects, trees, and even rocks, rivers and mountains. Quentin Young, of Lakota heritage, spoke about how this philosophy can help all people come together, accept each other’s profound differences and take care of Mother Earth at this critical moment. He has participated in all Seven Rites of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) ceremonies and has Sun Danced for over 20 years. Quentin has taught Black Elk’s vision at the College of DuPage and has lectured at several colleges and universities throughout Illinois.
As he filled his caηnuηpa (pipe), he shared stories of his spiritual journey with us, Of course, the universe always delivers just what I need to hear, and I was taken aback when he told us of a vision quest he was on. In his quest, he ended up surrounded by red ants, and when he contemplated and asked their meaning, he was told that he needed to overcome obstacles and ask for help. As of late, it has become crystal clear to me that, for most of my life, I have avoided asking for help. I dreaded being perceived as a burden to others. Being honest with myself, if I dig deeper, I’d think I didn’t deserve the unconditional love and generosity of others. I guess the divine needed to emphasize this message just one more time to really let it sink in!
“I fill the caηnuηpa (pipe) with red willow bark. If you smoke the pipe, the red willow assists you if you have any lung disorders.” — Quentin Young
Quentin encouraged us to say our prayers as he filled the pipe. He explained that our feelings, and thoughts end up as prayers in the pipe. He then took us through the prayers and rituals that he practiced while preparing the pipe. He described how sage rolled between palms, purified the hands and burning it distances negative spirits out of the circle. Burning cedar (which is a companion to the thunder beam people) informs the negative spirits that they have to leave the county.
After the workshop, we went outside and joined in a circle under the magnificent standing people (pine trees) that were behind the main building. As his wife, Ginger sang, we each took a puff of the pipe. I felt deep appreciation and I was elated, as the asthma that I suffer from has been particularly agitated the past month. I laughed at myself as I anxiously inhaled as much of that smoke as I could get. I had a good cough afterward and knew that I definitely got some of that red willow medicine. I’m thrilled to report that it has been a week since the event, and the asthma has most definitely quieted. My deepest gratitude to the standing people, the ca nu pa, the red willow and to Quentin and his wife, Ginger.
I giggle at these synchronistic graces, as a child would as she dived into her Christmas stocking that was filled with Santa’s goodies. What I’ve learned is that when we are open, anticipating and grateful, there is always room for another gift in that synchronistic stocking of infinite grace!
Theresa Puskar is an author, performer, speaker, minister and motivational audiobook producer. With over 25 years of experience in media and communications, she has worn many hats in the industry. She is the author of the “Terri” children’s book series, which focus on a variety of emotional and social development issues for children, ages 5 to 9. She has received accolades for her autobiographical solo show, Beauty, Bollywood and Beyond and looks forward to performing it in New York in October. A powerful inspirational speaker and transition leader, Theresa edu-tains her audiences, by touching hearts and minds in a way that is engaging, joyful and life-affirming. For more information, visit www.TheresaPuskar.com.