Tampa Hindu Temple, Barefoot Justine and Joe Courter

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“God looks after you especially,” said my fortune cookie. I don’t care for them (fortune cookies, I do care about Gods), and as a rule I disregard them, but when I feel compelled (as I did the last time I found a suitable fortune) I will open them. I had just been to the Hindu Temple in Tampa yesterday, so today I checked my fortune cookie, and it seemed rather auspicious, considering. Plus, it directly echoed a sentiment my Priest at the Temple back in Ohio had said to me when I told him why I was converting (you know, signs and visions), to which the Priest told me “God is speaking to you.” Of course, I don’t really know what any of this means, and I haven’t got quite enough ego to feel especially looked after or spoken to, but the symmetry was inspiring.

Joe Courter took me to the Temple, so it was a nice day all the way around, and oh so needed for me, as I have been slipping off my center… something that happens when you have no spiritual community, i.e. a local Temple. So it was that I went seeking a reconnection with my center, with God… that was the point to the journey, so you see, the timing in the message of this fortune cookie seems, again, rather auspicious. And this, below, was the first view we had of the Temple upon leaving the car:

First view when Barefoot Justine and Joe left the car, Tampa Hindu Temple

First view when Barefoot Justine and Joe left the car, Tampa Hindu Temple

Quite dazzling, quite lovely, and perhaps the closest I will ever get to a real Hindu Temple in India. All of the views were dazzling, unfortunately I do not have a great picture of the pyramid-like climb that leads to the inner sanctum, but this is the impressive tower that looms over you as you climb, a view that essentially blots out any and all unholy thoughts… like the hand of Shiva knocking spiritual sense into a woman so involved in the trappings of the material world, mired in Maya.

Impressive tower details from Barefoot Justine and Joe's trip to the Tampa Temple

Impressive tower details from Barefoot Justine and Joe’s trip to the Tampa Temple

OK, so it’s not the whole tower, but it is a lovely close-up, this is what the tower looked like from our approach…

Barefoot Justine and Joe Courter's Temple visit, tower view

Barefoot Justine and Joe Courter’s Temple visit, tower view

Of course I felt my center, and it was not only right where I’d left it (right there at the third eye), but it was also warming me from the Godhead out. The sense of peace I had enjoyed so much at the Temple in Ohio returned, it was a feeling I had longed for and all-but forgotten. It’s a feeling of undistracted purity. Of course, we had gotten there too early, so we could not yet get in, and, of course, no photography was allowed inside… for good obvious reasons, what a bummer that would be, a gaggle of gawking slack-jawed yokuls snapping pictures and making peace signs for their friends back home. So I took a couple more shots of the Deities on the outside, including Lord Ganesha who keeps watch and showers blessings from his post over the door to the inner chamber.

Lord Ganesha!

Lord Ganesha!

Lovely!

Lovely!

It was actually quite nice to be there so early and to be able to spend so much time around the outside of this glorious Temple.

As a fairly recent convert, I have had to learn a lot of things about Hinduism and Temple etiquette through trial and error, for one, you are supposed to enter Temples barefoot, but are not supposed to bring any dirt from the outside world into the Temple, iether in your mind or on your feet, and since I’m always barefoot all the time, I now carry wet rags or wipes to clean the bottoms of my feet before entering. And then, when I’m done with it, of course, I stuff the rag in my purse, forget about it and later wonder why everything’s all wet. I also think I breached etiquette this time by forgetting a small bit of leather that I was wearing, but I’ve seen a lot of Real Hindus forget this, so I don’t feel so bad about it.

And was my mission accomplished? Well, my center returned to me, and I feel all the more aware of God, and the fortune was, to my mind, one more reminder that this is where I am supposed to be. God works in mysterious ways, sometimes, even showing up in fortune cookies… but only if you know when to open them.

As for me, I hope to spend more time at my altar, more time meditation and chanting, but it won’t be easy, not without a Temple nearby. at 2.5 hours away, I am sad to realize that I will rarely get to the Temple, and I will have to continue finding my center alone out here, so far from others who share my faith. But I do know this, that my center is there, the Gods are there, and it is up to me entirely to believe, pray, and stay on my often elusive center.

Thank you Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, and Goddess Durga.

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