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Invoking the feminine energy within
Q: Which female archetype can help you be a force for good?
Disco Dialogues is a newsletter and interview series where Kinnari and Mitali engage in deliberate dialogue aimed to spark inner growth. Our posts start with a question to encourage reflection on topics ranging from creativity, courage and curiosity to self-care and relationships. The hope is that by sharing the dialogues that we have with ourselves and with each other, we can start meaningful conversations within our community.
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Today we write about goddesses. Our post heavily draws from the book by Sally Kempton, Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga. In it she references Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, who looked at Greek gods and goddesses as archetypes of universal psychological energies. “An archetype is a subtle blueprint that both transcends individual personality and lives in it, connecting our personal minds to the cosmic or collective mind.”
These goddesses that we speak of in our post today help personify energies that we feel in ourselves that are either active or lying dormant, either named or unnamed. They are a form of Shakti, the expression of divine feminine power which contrasts with the masculine, Shiva which is pure consciousness. Both energies are incarnated equally in men and women.
“... Within our inner world, Shakti plays on our thoughts, emotions, ideas, inspirations, as well as our ideas about who we are. In meditation, she manifests as our visions, our insights, the inner blocks that arise and the spaciousness that dissolves them.”
…The goddess, Shakti, also appears in a multiplicity of forms. As an independent goddess, she's often given the generic name of Devi (Goddess), but she's also worshiped on her own as Durga, the demon-slayer and mother of warriors, as Saraswati, the energy behind creative speech and Lakshmi, the energy of nourishment and abundance.”
Kinnari and I have had several deep conversations on the power of divine feminine energy and the need for more balance in the world between our own sacred masculine "Shiva" and feminine "Shakti" natures. These discussions have helped me embrace more of my feminine power in recent years. It didn't come naturally at first. Having spent most of my career in tech, I often found myself surrounded by folks exhibiting more of the masculine principle and have been rewarded in the past for leading with that side of my personality.
This past week Hindus celebrated Durga Puja/Navaratri giving me multiple occasions to pay my respects to the feminine. This is an annual festival which celebrates the divine feminine as the warrior Durga. It is particularly popular in the Indian state of West Bengal where I am from. I have fond memories from childhood of celebrating Durga Puja with my family so each year I take my children to a celebration here in California. This year with more time on my hands, I was able to share the traditions of my Bengali culture with my extended family including Kinnari by visiting multiple pujas.
The ten day festival marks the victory of goddess Durga in her battle against the shape-shifting demon, Mahishasura. She is depicted as a fierce warrior and a compassionate mother goddess who symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. According to Hindu mythology, she descends into battle, beauty personified, with weapons in her eight arms, riding a lion and succeeds in killing the demon.
"Why would a battle story be the root myth of the goddess? Is it simply one of those stories, found in every tradition, about how in humanity's darkest hours the divine comes to save us?
…it is a story about how we are supported and protected when we admit we are powerless over the forces of darkness and take refuge in the higher power...it’s a story of rescue, the promise of protection in a world where we are so often victims of warring powers"
Everyone in this world is battling their own demons. A friend is battling a diagnosis of late stage cancer. Another friend is dealing with the sudden death of her step-daughter in a car accident. Israelis are dealing with the trauma of a terrorist attack. Palestinians are dealing with the terror of losing their children in a war. We all need strength when faced with darkness. This week Durga has helped me reach deep into my compassion reserves to make sense of what is going on in the world.
She is who I call upon when I am in deep trouble or struggling to handle the problems or sorrows in my life. She manifests as a surge of courage when I need to remove obstacles in my way. To me Durga is the goddess of inner strength, the power driving my desire for spiritual awakening. She helps me turn my attention inward, to see beneath the surface of things, to see the deep connections between myself and others and the world.
“...Durga arrives in our inner world to strengthen our higher qualities, whether for the sake of accomplishing good in the world, for progress on the spiritual path, or for the evolution of collective consciousness."
We need more compassion and love in the world. We need the strength to look within and build a safe peaceful space protected from the chaos around us. We all need help in accessing our higher levels of energy - love, kindness, compassion, hope - instead of succumbing to the lower levels of energy - anger, fear, hate, anxiety - that the media and people around us pull us into.
As we each attempt to create some peace and compassion for all human beings suffering around the world, I leave you with these words delivered by Swami Vivekananda, an Indian Hindu monastic, philosopher and teacher, at a speech in London in 1896.
“There should be no privilege for anyone. The same power is in every man, one manifesting more, another less; the same potentiality is in all. Where then is the claim to privilege? All knowledge is in every soul, even in the most ignorant he has not manifested it, but perhaps he has not had the opportunity; his environment was not, perhaps, suitable to him; when he gets the opportunity he will manifest it. The idea that one man is born superior to another has no meaning in Vedanta; that between two nations one is superior and the other inferior has no meaning whatsoever. Put them in the same circumstances and see whether the same intelligence comes out or not.”
Growing up in a Gujarati household, Lakshmi, the goddess of good fortune, wealth and abundance was the one we prayed to during Diwali. Lakshmi is one of the goddesses that sustain human community - hers is the sphere of the social world: family, relationship, livelihood, wealth, and politics. Lakshmi brings beauty, fertility and everything that makes life sweet into our world. While Lakshmi is the goddess of abundance, it’s important to note that praying to Lakshmi should not be about wanting more from a place of lack. Instead, one must feel the fullness and satisfaction that comes with the sense of sufficiency first.
Last November, I hosted our family Diwali celebration for the first time in my house. A cousin had brought along a colorful printed photo of Lakshmi for the puja. After the celebrations were done I took that photo and stuck it inside my closet. Every day while getting dressed, I’d gaze at her and say thanks and make an ask. A month later, in December we got pregnant with baby L. I attribute this good fortune at least partly to this daily practice of connecting with the Lakshmi energy - of feeling the abundance in my life and inviting more love.
These days, with our world facing so much loss and suffering, I find myself being drawn to Durga - cosmic protector and empowering mother. She embodies the assertive, transformative feminine. It’s why I made time this past Sunday to go along with Mitali for Durga Puja. Like most of you, I’ve felt despair while watching the news. The images of children suffering and dying have been hard to bear. I have been at a loss of what we can do, feeling angry at the men on both sides for choosing wrongful action for so many years. One shouldn’t be allowed to choose the end of another life.
If our world was being led by mothers, would we see this magnitude of loss of human lives? Is it time for women to wear the crown? Or can the men get in touch with their dormant feminine energy to lead us into peace and into love? Either way, we all need to reconnect with the feminine power within us to be a force of good in our world and protect those in need. Let us bring forth the unstoppable, Shakti, energy that awakens and radically transforms our world.
“..when a lot of people are invoking a particular cosmic energy, they create a channel that makes it easier for that energy to show up in the human world.”
It is natural to question whether any of this will make a difference and cease the suffering in time. We have to keep the faith that if we all show up and connect with our higher energies then in time we can shift the world towards peace, one where we are all living in harmony.
“...outsiders who are not themselves immersed in pain should make an effort to empathize with all suffering humans, rather than lazily seeing only part of the terrible reality. It is the job of outsiders to help maintain a space for peace. We deposit this peaceful space with you, because we cannot hold it right now. Take good care of it for us, so that one day, when the pain begins to heal, both Israelis and Palestinians might inhabit that space.”
- Yuval Noah Harari, The World’s Job During the War on Hamas: Save the Space For Peace