We are about to begin a journey into the month of Kartika (Oct 13th to Nov. 11th), a month that can sweeten and deepen our relationship with Krishna if we choose to take advantage of it.
My suggestion for this month is to ‘travel light’ so we can be more available and present in our bhakti meditation practice. We do this by both “giving up” and “taking on”.
Giving up can include reducing or doing without favorite things like sweets, favorite dishes, eating less in general, giving up or reducing social media or media in general, being frugal, etc. It also could include giving up criticizing others, needing to be right, envy in general or other such goings on. In other words, un-complicate our mind and practice being satisfied and happy with less!
The minute we stop doing something we love to do (or have a habit of doing) we will have a huge desire to do it. So part of this work of Kartika vows is to recognize the urge - to eat, to win, to watch - and not give in. This takes determination. And because we are doing it as an offering to Krishna, it becomes a sweet austerity.
So overall do less and in this way travel light for the month. Yes - it is only for one month but for some of us who are not natural yogis, one month can feel like a long time. So hang in there.
The secret is in taking on. Take on an extra japa round or two, a commitment to daily study, some seva at the temple. You can show up and say “I have an hour. Give me something to do!”. Take on helping others, having conversations that matter, going for a walk in nature, saying yes to difficulty when you want to say no!
It’s the intention that counts, so try to avoid Kartika vows that have the goal of losing weight or getting fit or saving money. It’s really a month dedicated to gaining spiritual weight - a healthy internal spirit.
To travel light also means don’t take on vows or austerities that become a big burden on you or your family. Better to keep it small and do it with intention and loving absorption every day. There is nothing worse than vows that wear us down or make us bitter.
The best part of the month is the invitation to offer a lamp to Krishna every day, and sing the Damodarastakam prayer, which tells the story of Krishna as a young boy stealing butter. Even if we do nothing else, if we do this, the blessings of Kartika will bestow upon us all kinds of spiritual grace.