Meeting the Goddess
Twenty years ago, I went to India for the first time. As a left-brain Westerner with a PhD, I was not prepared for many of the powerful and inexplicable experiences that I would encounter during the next nine years of visiting and living there.
On my first trip, I was told that I would meet the Devi. And in my absolute naiveté and ignorance, I thought she would be a beautiful woman who held some special powers. I was completely taken aback when it turned out to be a 14 inch statue. We asked questions of this Goddess while two men held the statue upside down and wrote the answers in sand with the tip of her head.
The Power of the Universe
Over the ensuing years I had my own extremely powerful experiences with the Divine Mother. These include being embodied by the Goddess Durga on many occasions. (So much so that I came back and created a series of Goddess Workshops and named my business “Embodying the Goddess.”) The Goddess said to me in the beginning, “Let me take you from the gurus and the patriarchy and show you where the real power of the universe is – In the Mother.”
Over the past 17 years, I have taught my Devi Workshops on Kali, Durga, Saraswati, and Lakshmi at yoga studios throughout the country. They include lecture on the particular Goddess. The lecture includes her creation story and symbology as well as focusing on what she means in our own lives today. This is then followed by yoga practice focused on the chakra where her vibration is held. We chant the mantras of each Devi so that participants could actually begin to FEEL her vibrations in themselves. This feeling is similar to my own experiences of embodiment.
I now teach about the Goddesses as simply archetypal energies. These energies are available to be brought into ourselves to fill out—and fill in—aspects of our own beings that may be lacking or limited.
Kali is the Goddess of Transformation
Kali has always been my favorite goddess to share. One, because of her power but also because there is such misunderstanding of what she actually represents.
Kali IS the goddess of transformation and she IS scary, with her blue/black body, hanging tongue and necklace of skulls. However her energy is there to transform, to help us to cut away that which we no longer need, either in our external worlds, or aspects of our internal life which need to be released. In addition, she is extremely important in that she helps to release us from FEAR. And she is always there so that the new and beautiful can be born in our lives.
The Power of Kali Energy
Over the years I have joked about being born with too much Kali energy. I realized this when I first began to teach these workshops. When I would chant the Kali mantras with the group, my entire left side would atrophy for a couple of days, it would literally go numb. I thought that that powerful scary energy of Kali was prevalent in this Black-American Woman/Mother, born and raised by a single Black Mother. And I gave a superficial or limited understanding that when we are judged daily by externals (such as the color of our skin) there is a harshness that comes in to protect the beauty and grace of the heart of the woman, so that NOTHING could penetrate into its core.
I espoused this idea lightly over the years, but never delved into the depths of its truth. I just contemplated a surface idea of its possibility.
But in these current days of the resurrection of racism and bigotry in this country, I am driven deeper into my understanding of the complexities of this reality.
Durga is the Goddess of Protection
The Goddess Durga IS the Warrior Goddess of Protection. In her creation myth, she was able to kill the demon that none of the male gods could kill. And she is wonderful as she wields her power with a smile on her face. Durga is a symbol of how we all might want to hold our energy: strong, while maintaining our beauty and dignity.
However, Ms. Kali who was born through Durga’s Third Eye, out of Durga’s rage, represents, on a deeper more guttural level, the energy that sometimes is required when you have been burdened, disrespected, mistreated, and belittled for too long.
Examples of Kali in the World
In our current ideology, her energy is very much present in the Me Too movement. This includes women like the movements activist founder Tarana Burke who has been described as having a laser-like focus on helping survivors of sexual assault.
Another women who embodies this is Prabhavati Dwabha. Ms Dwabha is the founder of Ramana’s Garden in Rishikesh, a children’s home and education center for children coming from extreme need. Recently, she and I were on a goddess panel at the Rishikesh International Film Festival. I observed how she exhibited a fiery Kali-like energy in order to take on the devastations which she encountered.
The Raw Power of Kali is Needed in the World Today
Kali with her lolling tongue, does not care about social norms or niceties. She is unafraid to show us her ugliness. (The ugliness we all have inside of us.) She is RAW POWER, RAW STRENGTH, RAW RAGE. These emotions are so necessary when we just can’t take it any longer. And she is NOT PRETTY.
Many professional/middle class Black Women in America, have tried NOT to reveal this brimming fury. We have tried NOT to add to the already negative view that many hold of Black People and of Black Women in America. And also, we have not spoken up for fear or at least because of the awareness of the possible negative repercussions due to our less-than-powerful status in areas of finance and legal support in this country. In this attempt to claim self-control, we are facing negative actions such as discrimination in general, mistreatment, rudeness, or being ignored. These situations can naturally lead to a powerful reciprocal response. So this can lead to an internal well of hate and rage as well as a pulsating feeling of disrespect for Self.
The Plague of Contemporary Racism
In my immediate life, having moved back to the Los Angeles area after over 15 years away, I have been confronted by a shift in the energy and interactions of white females in particular (and sometimes even white males) in this place where I grew up. In the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, I was free to go wherever I wanted, and I felt very much at home living in Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, Topanga Canyon, and Malibu. Now, as I walk down these same streets where almost all people of color have disappeared, I feel an uneasiness, an energy of distrust. I see looks of disgust, sometimes even grimaces as if, “What are you doing here?”
At least no one that I know of has called the police on me because I am “Black person walking, or driving or sitting or using the restroom at Starbucks….” as we have read about all too often in today’s news. As I am no longer young, I am confronted with messages of a more subtle and insidious vibration. I have had one too many “Hon’s!” or “Sweetie’s” or “Sweetheart’s” spoken in a very negative and of course condescending and demeaning tone.
The Discomfort of Subtle Racism
When I was going to a building where I once lived, north of Wilshire in Santa Monica, I found that a former neighbor was now the manager. She was someone whose home travel agency I had even utilized. Now she looked at me with a blank and distant stare. It was as if she didn’t know me, even though she said that she, of course, remembered me. But obviously did not want to speak to me. Later, I saw this exact same look on the face of a husband of a friend who I had not seen in many years. It was a hesitant not-smile, definitely not welcoming; an almost cold discomfort.
And sadly, in my work of almost 20 years of yogic spirituality as well as having spent so much time in India, I’ve been turned down to present at yoga studios in this area. My offerings were welcomed over the phone but I did not receive a response after mailing my flyers. My brochures were taken down at a conscious health food store in Calabasas.
Remember—this is the Westside of Los Angeles and not the typical home of the sometimes racist extreme right, but of people who identify as liberals.
I have my own ideas as to why these changes may have occurred. These include extreme changes in income differentials, people of color no longer being able to afford to live in these areas, or changes or reduction in rent control availability. So that by not having neighbors in the area, or in the stores, there became a certain acceptance of who belongs and who does not. I am not sure the exact causes, and I am interested to know why. But the end result is what we are experiencing today.
Addressing Racism as a Spiritual Being
So as I have always tried to do, my way is to address these issues as a Spiritual Being. And that DOES NOT necessarily equate to meditating to bring peace to the situation. (Please remember that Jesus turned over the tables when he saw misuse and abuse in the Temples of Jerusalem.) I ask us to call on this Divine Energy of Kali within us. She IS Right Action and Right Speech for Righteousness sake. We do not work from a personal anger or fear. When we work from Divine Morality and Integrity, there is always a Perfect Response. A Perfect Way made. We need not fear the outcome. We respond as the Divine Goddesses and Gods that We Are.
I ask you to think about how to walk through the world. Do you walk down the street thinking that you are White or Black or Hispanic or Asian, et cetera? Or do you just walk down the street BEING yourself? This is how we all are. We do not identify as color first. But, we are often responded to first as a color. I have always lived in a multicultural world. My close friends, clients and students are primarily White. And so this should not be taken as an assault on all of the beautiful beings that exist in ALL cultures. BUT, there is a need to address things that ARE out of hand in our society.
Also, I am not placing all blame externally. Many people of color, including myself, have been raised in households of fear and hurt. So perfect strong clear responses to mistreatment may not easily have made their way forth from us in the moment. As a result we may have responded with anger or repression. But as we are no longer under the former constraints of the severe consequences of Jim Crow laws and slavery before it, we must begin to act from these hard-fought rights and stand in up in right ways, to every form of racism that we encounter, no matter how subtle.
Call on our Spiritual Strength to Take Action
We must call upon an inner spiritual strength. We must BE STILL and KNOW who we are and respond from that Divine vantage point utilizing the fearless energy of Kali if required. (Even if in our minds or prayers after the fact, if we missed it in the moment.)
I am also asking women and men who ARE in power, be it by the color of their skin or by the money in their wallet, to take responsibility for the words and actions that consciously or not, are currently being expressed.
We must also begin by speaking up to friends and acquaintances when we see or experience it in our social and professional circles. I call upon my White Sisters. Sisters who with their power in the 70s changed the rules that their mixed children could be claimed as White like themselves on their birth certificates. Whereas before that time, if there was 1/32 of Black blood in you, Negro was written on your birth certificate. This power has evolved to the current words of bi-racial, as an acceptable FACT.
Our Unconscious Bias
I am reminded of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots after the Rodney King beating.
At the time, my daughter was attending a prestigious private Westside Junior High School. Early the next morning we received a notification from the school that the parents were going to have an emergency meeting in relation to this crisis.
I can remember being so thankful that we were finally going to discuss and begin to address the subtle (and not so subtle) aspects of racism at the school and how we could begin a healing process.
However, when I arrived, I was taken aback when I sat down at the early morning meeting to find out that it was NOT about OUR VERY REAL racial issues, but how we were going to collect food and clothing for the “poor people” in South Central who had been affected.
Right Action can Prevail
We begin by being honest within ourselves. We begin by asking the question, “Do I in any way do this on even the most subtle levels?” As we question within our own hearts, we begin to allow for the release of an energetic pattern that is sweeping this country. Even people of color can ask these questions of themselves. Because we too can take on these patterns and beliefs that have been portrayed in the media and in the political sphere.
Women and men of ALL colors need to open to that Kali Energy. When we do, we can allow Right Action to prevail in order for Her work of transformation to occur in us all.