I recently help a Puja for Women called Healing the Goddess with my friend and colleague Gina Garris. I wanted to share what one of the participants, Reni Berman, had to say.
I had the pleasure of experiencing a “Puja” the other night. I have experienced some small and simple one’s going through yoga teacher training, but this was quite the experience and not like any other Puja I had experienced. It was three hours long, committed to women and included everything from rose essential oil (the highest vibrational of the essential oils we were told), to dancing, vomiting to total strangers, things that we liked/disliked about ourselves and being bathed in rose petals.
There was actually much more to it than that but that gives you some idea. There ended up being probably 10-12 women in the room. A few knew others but I was a total stranger aside from my good friend that invited me to come along. I really didn’t know what to expect as many of the Puja’s that I had experienced had a lot to do with yoga, involved more Sanskrit and just other components that I was used to. The definition of a Puja in short is “to worship” and not necessarily in the negative connotation of religious ceremonies. It is a Hindu term and there is a great article on Puja’s here.
This particular Puja was the celebration of Goddesses. I have never considered myself a Goddess but having the open heart and mind that I do, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to see for myself, exactly what it was all about. I was pleasantly surprised!
The women in this group were very diverse. All shapes, sizes, colors and ethnicities. We started out with Rose oil in the palm of our hands (it was very appealing) and “dancing like nobody is watching”….literally. We dimmed the lights and danced by ourselves for a few minutes. This was an attempt to let go and actually feel our bodies. I had to say it was pretty liberating. Some of these women had previously been to a puja so they knew what to expect. Some of them described it as “being wrapped up in a warm blanket” by the time it’s all said and done.
During the puja, we sat in circles and slowly rotated so eventually we got to talk to every woman in the room. The inner or outer circle, depending on what they said, had to answer very personal questions to the person sitting across from them. One person had to “hold space” and listen to what the other person said, without talking or trying to “fix” their answers. The other person was asked to answer these personal questions very honestly. I know very few people who are actually willing to talk personal stuff with total strangers. I have to say it came easier to me than I thought. Especially considering when I started this journey through yoga, I had a deep engrained samskara that prevented me from talking in front of groups of people, or even strangers. I can very easily talk to my closest friends about some of these most personal things, but to talk to a complete stranger is like walking up to somebody on the street and just start pouring out any emotions you feel need venting. It was odd!!!
I have to say though, that by the end of the puja, I felt different. Rotating the circles, we eventually ended up with the same person we started out with and it felt different with them, than when we started. It was lighter and I felt freer. We were then told to make up a little ceremony with rose petals, for the person sitting across from us; treat them like the goddess they are. By the time the 3 hour long puja was done, I almost felt like I knew these women all along. It was a sacred space where we were allowed to talk about ourselves. Our likes and dislikes about ourselves. Some of what I heard was heartbreaking and on occasion, I felt like I needed to hug somebody or let them know they are a beautiful soul. But I do believe we all left an imprint on those we spoke with. By the end of the ceremony these same women said they felt loved and sexy and many other things they didn’t feel when they started. So I guess you could say this Goddess Puja was a success. If you have the opportunity to attend one, I highly recommend it. You could very well have your spirits lifted or have the privilege of uplifting somebody else who really needs it.