Each year we turned to the abundance that is offered through foraging in our local region, including Wild Mushrooms and Rose hips.
I hope you take the time to walk out in nature, and enjoy the pleasure of free food foraging.
Here in Central Victoria the two easiest edible mushrooms to find, identify and eat!, are pine mushrooms Saffron Milk Cap (Lactarius deliciosus) and Slippery Jack (Boletus portentosus).
Please note, if you are ever unsure about whether a mushroom is edible or poisonous, do not eat it. I would highly recommend doing a mushroom identification course.
Each year we cook up an abundance of mushrooms on toast, risotto and soup. Please see our Cream Wild Mushroom Soup that is a perfect recipe for the Saffron Milk Caps.
Slippery Jacks are from the same family as Porcini mushrooms so make a great addition to to Italian soups, rice and pasta dishes. We dry the surplus Slippery Jacks to be used in our cooking throughout the year. I use it like a ‘stock cube’ to add a rich flavour to dishes.
Saffron Milk Caps
Mushrooms on Toast
Slippery Jacks drying
I have stated to harvest an abundant crop of Rosehips from the roses running wild in and around Taradale. They are best harvested after the first frost, then dried, and stored. They are delicious as a refreshing tea, and are a valuable source of vitamin C. This year has been a wonderful season for these wild ‘hips with the spring, summer and autumn rains.
* The health information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes only. It is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis provided by your medical or other health professional. Do not use this information to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or health condition. If you have, or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your physician or health care provider.
Welcome to my latest blog. Following my recent trip in India, I share with you some of my photos and key yoga learnings and experiences I had in my training and travel.
Overview of my travel and yoga training
I spent just under a month in India. A short time in Delhi, with the majority of my time in the north east state Uttarakhand and the small city of Rishikesh which is known as the Gateway to theHimalayas and the ‘yoga capital of the world’.
Rishikesh, on the banks of the River Ganges or Gangawas the perfect place for my training, opening me to the deep wisdom of yogic teachings whilst on the sacred land of India.
I stayed in the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, an organisation doing a lot for humanitarian and environmental peace and education.
The training was a postgraduate course into the depths ofJnana and Bhakti yoga. Chinnamasta as the goddess of self inquiry represented the teachings of Jnana yoga, and Matangi is the goddess of devotional or Bhakti yoga.
I am very grateful to my teacher Lorraine Taylor for holding space for yet another transformational journey into yoga. And thanks to Maryz Helene (for her dance and voice work) and her partner Pierre (of the kirtan duo SuryaChandra) for the Bhakti and Kirtan.
It was wonderful to journey with a small group of women from all around the world from Australia (yes two of us!), Chile, Colombia, China, Russia, Germany, USA, Poland, England and Canada.
In addition to my yoga training, I had the opportunity to attend the International Yoga Festival, in the week before my training. One of my highlights for me (as a baby of the 60’s) was singing ‘Imagine’ in the Beatles ashram! The Beatles being a part of yoga’s journey to the west, and the west to Rishikesh! And to sing this with Lorraine, who comes for Liverpool added an extra joy.
I also had 4 days of travel in ‘less touristed’ Haridwar nearby to Rishikesh a sacred city with many Devi temples. I travelled here on my own, intrigued to understand more about goddess worship. Haridwar offered me an interesting contrast to the yoga teachings I received in Rishikesh compared to Hindu religious devotional practices.
Ganga Ma Sacred River: Fire, Water and Flower Rituals
Most of my time was spent on the banks of the sacred Ganga river, revered as the goddess Ganga Ma. I felt instant peace and ease the moment I saw her, and sat by the waters. I thought at first it was because I had come from our dry arid summer, knowing that flowing water is so important for my Pitta nature.
Ganga River at the Vasishta Caves, 1/2 hour out of Rishikesh town.
But over my time by the Ganga, I saw and took part in many rituals (including fire, water and flower rituals) along the banks of the Ganga. I came to understand and feel the deep and profound sacred energy that exudes from this river and the centuries of devotional workshop that pilgrims have given to its waters.
Fire rituals are an inherent part of Indian life. For example, fire is a part of many Hindu rites-of-passage ceremonies including celebrating a birth by the lighting a lamp, at weddings by the bride and groom circling fire, and at death by cremation. Fire from a yoga perspective, is one of the elements of our bodies, so prayers and practices with fire can help awaken the Agni within our bodies and our lives.
Har ki Pauri in Haridwar
Man Praying with Aarti Lamp
The Aarti (fire) lamp is used for both individuals prayers as well as the large gathering such as the Har ki Pauri in Haridwar.
The waters of the Ganga are considered very sacred and pure. The river is considered the personification of the goddess Ganga.
Ganga Ma with Shiva
Ganga Ma is worshiped by Hindus who believe that bathing in the river causes the remission of sins and facilitates Moksha (liberation from the cycle of life and death).
Personally I found the Ganga to be profoundly healing. Water is such an important element for us with our bodies being made up of mostly water. I feel inspired to include water rituals in my yoga practice to bring greater balance to the water element.
I have always used flowers as a part of beautifying my home, and in my yoga practice and teaching in the creation of Altars. It was wonderful to see flowers as an inherent part of Indian life, and the devotional ceremonies in temples and on the banks of the Ganga.
Flower Stall in the back streets of Haridwar near to the Ganga River
Flowers adoring statues and deities including thecircle of gods and goddesses outside my ashram room (who were also included in the Holi celebrations of colour!) and the Shiva Lingham and Nandi the Bulls seen throughout temples and by the sides of the river.
Goddess statue on Holi
Nandi the Bull
I also found so much beauty in the dying flowers and petals in the waters of the river or in the temples, the physical remains of the sacred prayers of so many souls.
As a part of the opened ceremony for my training, each woman took our intention for our yoga journey together, to the river and whilst chanted ‘Ganga Ma’ we set down our flowers with a ghee flame to the flow of the river. My intention was to Open to Love.
Chinnamasta: Goddess of Self Inquiry
Ever since I was a little girl I have always asked and loved reflecting on ‘Who am I?
It is interesting, of the 10 Mahavidya goddesses, it has been Chinnamasta energy that I have most feared. Well her imagery is quite formidable!
(Apologies for the quality of this photo which was in the Maya Devi Temple in Haridwar, where the Mahavidya Goddess artwork were enclosed within glass boxes which I assume was to protect them from damage)
Chinnamasta literally means ‘severed head’. To be without a head is symbolic for going beyond body consciousness or attachment to the thought composed mind.
Through embodying Chinnamasta we do not literally take off our heads. Rather through meditation and self inquiry we release our attachment to the limited mind so that we can access universal consciousness. Dissolving our minds into pure awareness brings us transcendence. When we are free from the limitations of the mind, we can realise our true nature, beyond duality.
We need not fear losing our bodies or losing our heads. They are mere restrictions on our deeper reality (Frawley, 1994 p 114).
I find that non-duality can be a difficult word and concept to grasp or to explain. Jeff Foster simply describes non-duality as ‘…something we all know very deeply in our hearts: we are all One, all made of the same ‘stuff’, and separation is the greatest illusion of all.”
We attended different Satsangs with different spiritual teachers including Mooji and ShantiMayi. I also visited Anandamayi’s Ashram in Haridwar. Through these and the meditation practices I learnt in the training, I had the opportunity to deepen my meditation and spiritual inquiry to new and profound levels. I look forward to sharing some of these teachings and inspiration in workshops and classes.
I like to reflect on where the goddess shows up in our lives. On the Chinnamasta day, when we walked as a silent meditation on our way to a Satsang with Shanti Mayi, I saw this sacred cow and her calves which reminded me of the symbology of Chinnamasta feeding her ‘companions’ from the fluid that stream from the Ida and Pingala Nadi’s, who for me I see as my children (twins!), my students and the people I serve. Through the central channel (Sushumna) she is feeding her own head.
There is One unchanging indivisible Reality, which, though un-manifest, reveals itself in infinite multiplicity and diversity. That one – the Supreme Truth is ever present everywhere in all circumstances. Anandamayi
Matangi Goddess of Bhakti Yoga the Yoga of Devotion
Matangi is the goddess of the utterance of the divine word (Frawley, 1994). She was the Bhakti component of the training where we explored and embodied devotion through dance, voice work and Kirtan.
Matangi isconsidered to be the Tantric form of Saraswati as she governs speech, music, knowledge and the arts. Unlike Saraswati who represents the knowledge and virtue of the Brahmin or learned class, Matangi is the outcast who goes against the norms of society (Frawley, 1994). Lorraine fondly calls her the punk cousin or sister of Saraswati.
As an outcaste she is offered left-over or partially eaten foods, which is considered to be impure in classical Hinduism. In this way she is seen as the goddess of pollution. We included dead flowers and banana peels on our Altar in the training!
Tantra embraces all as sacred!
On the Matangi day I walked past this wall of rubbish in Rishikesh , which was not uncommon in the streets of India. The opportunistic monkey foraging for food.
Deities of Yoga
Many evenings we sat in circle chanting to the gods and goddesses of yoga. Check out the huge Saraswati that adorned the yoga hall! Some nights we opened our circle to the Rishikesh yoga community, chanting with up to 100 people. Listening to some of the recordings of these chants takes me right back there.
Matangi relates to the ears and our ability to listen. It was wonderful to practice the traditional call and response Kirtan, which requires us to deeply listen.
One of the greatest teachings I received from the training and my travels (which I am still integrating as it was so profound!) was the understanding of the difference between religious and yogic / spiritual devotion.
Visiting the Devi temples in Haridwar I was struck by the 1000’s of Hindu pilgrims visiting and making offerings and praying in the temples with alters of statues and images of the various gods and goddesses, including Durga, Ganesha, Lakshmi and Ganga Ma. Some people handing over large sums of money to Lakshmi, and red flowers to Durga.
In contrast, devotional yoga is focused more on spiritual experience and realisation at the individual level than the externalisation of a god or goddess.
When we call in the goddess or god energy in our yoga practice, we are embodying and embracing their divine qualities within. Practicing yoga with the goddesses and gods bring the practitioner to union, to the realisation that a deity and the practitioner are in essence the same, that they are non-dual.
In this way we are Ganga Ma, and Ganga Ma is us!
In addition, in my ongoing quest to understand more about the Mahavidya Wisdom Tantric Goddesses I was struck by the stark contrast between the Hindu goddess temples that had 1000’s of devotional visitors, and in the same grounds, but a different building, a temple for the 10 Mahavidya goddesses which had few or no visitors!
The stunning Mahavidya Temple at Dakshewara Mahadev temple, Haridwar
Kirtan and chanting
One of the profound teachings and healings I received from Maryz was that each of us have a unique voice, a unique sound resonance, which has great power to heal. She offered us this simple mantra, which you may also like to use.
I love my voice. My voice heals me.
Ganesha, is the elephant headed God, is one of the best known and most worshipped deities in the Hinduism and widely revered as the remover of obstacles.
Ganesha worship can be in the more traditional ‘religious’ way, where we praying to the god who is external to us, to help remove obstacles or we can turn inward, more as a spiritual practice.
As a yoga practice, we can use the symbolism and mythology as a way to draw attention to Ganesha’s symbolism. Turning inwards to our own lives becoming aware of what obstacles are in our path of liberation and freedom.
This training offered me the non-dual lesson and understanding that obstacles on our path are a part of being human, and from these obstacles we can learn and grow.
Maryz and Pierre follow the tradition of chanting to Ganesha at the beginning of Kirtan. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rites and ceremonies. At the beginning of the journey (be it a yoga or kirtan session) chanting to Ganesh can help grounding ourselves with the energy of Ganesha in whatever it means to us.
Here is Maryz and Pierre (SuryaChandra) and one of their Ganesha chants, which you can listen to for free, or purchase it if you like it. I particularly like to play it at the warm up beginning of yoga asana practice. It is a beautiful chant, for warming up the body, and becoming aware of tensions, and blockages in the body, and gently releasing.
On my graduation day, which happened to fall on Holi celebration, a festival of forgiveness, I spent the late afternoon and evening walking along the banks of the Ganga joining different international groups singing and chanting including Osho chants in English and more traditional Sanskrit mantra chanting.
We sang the Gayatri Mantra, which is traditionally sung at sunrise and at sunset.
If you like, you can listen or chant along with this version of the Gayatri Mantra by Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda.,who I was lucky enough to chant with on the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh!
You can either Chant without knowing the meaning. Sanskrit is a devotional language, so simply by saying the words we can tap a collective human devotion. And for those of us who like to have an understanding of what we are saying see the words below is an example or look it up, there are many interpretations. Here is one that I like by Douglas Brooks in yoga Journal
The eternal, earth, air, heaven
That glory, that resplendence of the sun
May we contemplate the brilliance of that light
May the sun inspire our minds.
Much of the yoga that is practiced today, particularly in the west, is grounded in a more masculine style with their focus on strength, alignment and physical challenge. More recently there is a rise in more feminine styles of yoga. See my previous blog: What is Feminine Yoga and why do we need it?
I have practiced a range of styles of yoga over 35 years. In my early 40s I discovered Tantra, in particular Shakti, which was incredibly healing for my burn out from years of working in a patriarchal, and distorted masculine corporate world. Interestingly, within this new wave of Feminine yoga, I have also observed in some schools and practices a very one sided, and distorted feminine approach to yoga, that in its own way, disregarded the masculine.
More recently I have been bringing both the masculine and the feminine into my personal yoga practice and teaching.
In this blog I retell a story from Indian mythology of Shiva and Parvati and unpack the meaning of Shiva and Shakti and what wisdom it can bring to our yoga, our individual growth to wholeness and our relationship. I include some simple yoga practices for you to do at home to awaken and embody the divine masculine and feminine within.
Shiva and Shakti
Shiva and Shakti are personifications of the great powers of Yoga which reflect the higher realities and energies that are behind, and beyond, all universal forces. They are the manifestations of divine consciousness where the ‘whole’ is made up of two opposed but complementary forces. Like yin and yang, they represent the duality behind all energies in the universe. These energies are present in our internal worlds as they are in the external cosmos: as reflected in the aphorism:
“As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul”
It is said that at the advent of creation there was a splitting of the primordial principle, and so duality within our lives came into being, together with a strong force that is constantly striving to re-unite the different parts of us.
Shiva and Shakti can be seen as the guiding deities of yoga offering us the power of transformation and liberation. They are the great God and Goddess; also known as Mahadeva and Mahadevi. Importantly, they are not just abstract principles, rather they are the archetypes of Yoga within us. and can offer us a perspective on our personal reality.
Shiva, the Divine Masculine, represents consciousness and awareness; and Shakti, the Divine Feminine, represents activating power and energy. Shiva and Shakti represent the primary complimentary forces in nature, including mind and emotion, mountains and valleys, the sun and the moon, fire and water and all other innumerable variations within a dualistic world.
Shiva and Shakti exist as personal potentials within us as well as the cosmic powers outside of us at every level of consciousness, from the macro to the micro: yang and yin, the masculine and feminine; steadiness and dynamic change; awareness and bliss; stability and transformation; being and becoming. Together these energies complete and complement each other.
In Indian mythology the story of Shiva and Parvati is an archetypal romance that is rich in symbolism and meaning and provide us a window into understanding the energy and wisdom of Shiva and Shakti.
Shiva and Parvati’s marriage is the great cosmic partnership: the union of Shakti, in the form of Goddess Parvati, the supreme yogini with Shiva her yogi husband.
The Story of of Shiva and Goddess Parvati
As the story goes, Shiva is supposed to be functioning in his cosmic role as the great destroyer, bringing about endings so that there can be new beginnings. However, after the loss of his first wife, Sita, in mourning, he retreated to his Himalayan mountain cave, and immersed himself in a state of unbroken, deep meditation. Living the life of a recluse, Shiva immersed himself in the stillness of the void, revelling in absolute freedom, that he became utterly unconcerned with the affairs of the cosmos. During this time, his cosmic tasks are not done and his teachings are not heard.
The other Gods realised that something needed to be done to reengage Shiva into his cosmic role. So they asked the great goddess to incarnate again, to bring Shiva back to the world. The eternal Shakti took on the form Parvati, or daughter of the mountain.
She is divinely beautiful, cosmically adorable and from the moment she can speak, she talks about Shiva. When she is 16, she goes to the grove where Shiva sits in meditation. She brings him food that he never eats, she lights candles that he never sees, and she longs for him to open his eyes to see her.
Brahma, the creator god, recognised that Shiva’s desire needed to be awakened, so he enlisted the help of Kama, the god of pleasure and desire. Kama, sent soft spring breezes with the scent of jasmine to the grove that Shiva and Parvati were. Parvati becomes more enchanted and her love for Shiva grows.
Kama waited until Parvati was directly in Shiva’s sight of vision, and holding his bow, he let loose the irresistible arrows of love: the Inciter of Desire, Inflamer of lust, Exciter of Infatuation. As they strike Shiva’s heart, he is aroused by the most un-meditative feelings of desire. Shiva opened his eyes and saw Parvati and a stirring arose in his heart. When the sensations moved down to his groin, Shiva realised what had happened, and opening his third eye, he sent out a beam of fire that incinerated Kama. Shiva returned to meditation.
Parvati, now deeply in love with Shiva, knew that he is touched by her but not willing to give in to his feelings. She knew that she couldn’t ‘have’ Shiva unless she cultivates in herself the qualities of stillness, stamina and devotion. She realised she will need to earn his love through yoga.
Parvati goes to the mountain and for a long time (hundreds of celestial years!) she dedicates herself to her yoga practice. Eventually the fire of her yoga begins to penetrate the upper worlds. Shiva in his meditation began to feel the heat, and remembering Parvati’s beauty, he sensed his unwavering devotion to her. He recognised that whilst solitary mediation has its own joy, he was now awakened to the bliss that comes from relationship. and he realises that she is his eternal lover.
Shiva and Parvati
And so Shiva and Parvati marry and consummate the divine marriage. After years of marriage and lovemaking, the teachings of yoga emerge from their spiritual conversations. In their domestic bliss and love for each other, and in their arguments that arise, Parvati and Shiva maintain a tension of opposites.
Parvati asks Shiva questions and in doing so draws out Shiva’s insights. Her presence inspires him to turn into himself to find words and to express truths that come from the place beyond words. In making love with Shiva, Parvati draws the transcendent formless absolute down to earth. The endless conversations are consciously offered as a gift to human beings who long for the secrets of enlightenment.
Ardhanarishvara as the Inner Archetype
The two primal powers of Shiva and Shakti are also represented in the androgynous deity Ardhanarishvara who is depicted with one side as female, and one side as male. Ardhanarishvara represents the ultimate union of Shiva and Parvati into the one unified ‘being’.
Ardhanarishvara Illustrator Ekabhumi Charles Ellik
The right side of this androgynous ‘being’ wears a tiger skin, has matted locks and carries a trident. The left side has sinuous curvaceous belly, full breasts, wearing a delicate skirt lotus flower. In this way, the left side of the body represents the feminine (Shakti) and the right side the masculine (Shiva).
Symbolic Meaning of the Mythological Archetypes
The mythology of Shiva and Parvati can be understood at many different levels as an inner archetype and as a role model for relationships. In this way the stories offer us an understanding of wholeness, completion and union within ourselves, as well as a model for understanding dynamics within relationships. As the guiding deities of yoga, Shiva and Shakti gift us the power of transformation and liberation. They offer us a path to union whether we are looking at it from the individual path of the yogini/yogi, or the path of relationship.
Balancing the Masculine and Feminine within
The Parvati and Shiva love story and Ardhanarishvara deity symbolise a powerful stage of embodied enlightenment. They represent the inner journey to wholeness. It is a metaphor for the cosmic truth that reality is a duality and that in unity it is a dance of polarities.
Ardhanarishvara: Union of Shiva and Shakti Art work from Exotic Art India (www.exoticindiaart.com)
Shiva and Parvati (Shakti) represent the ‘divine masculine’ and ‘divine feminine’ as cosmic energies that are within us, both men and women. The ‘concept’ of Shiva and Shakti can take us beyond the polarities of gender as well as the limited and skewed cultural definitions of masculine and feminine. It can take us beyond gender wars to understanding the divine feminine and masculine within men and women.
It shows that if any one side of ourselves remain in the shadow, we do not live a life of fulfilment. As many of us know, when we fall in love, there can be a mirroring of falling in love with those qualities that we haven’t as yet discovered or grown in ourselves. If there are imbalances in the masculine and feminine within, the potential is for this to play out and project into our relationships with others.
The Divine feminine – evolutionary power.
Tantra, unlike the majority of contemporary religions, has a deep respect for the feminine as a spiritual authority. Interestingly, Shiva is often referred to as the ultimate man, symbolising the ultimate masculinity. However, Ardhanarishvara shows us that half of him is a fully developed woman, showing that it is essential for men (and women) to consciously nurture and celebrate the feminine (and the masculine) (Sadhguru, 2014).
The Parvati and Shiva love story shows that Parvati (Shakti) is Shiva’s capacity to express himself in action and that without her, he is inactive, inert. She is the divine feminine that is behind action – the force of evolution in the cosmos as well as internally in our own bodies and lives. Without Shakti, the awareness of Shiva remains transcendent, and does not engage nor help us in the ‘worldly’ plane. His spirituality has no role in worldly affairs. Parvati on the other hand is grounded in the world.
Shakti is the transformative energy behind all evolution. Shakti is fluid, flowing and powerfully flexible. Shakti energy can be wildly sensual, raw and expressive. In the process of transformation, Shakti takes form as a passionate urgency that inspires us to step beyond apparent limits and expand our consciousness.
Shakti can play out as thoughts, emotions, ideas and inspirations. In mediation, she manifests as visions and insights and feelings of bliss. It is Shakti who helps us embrace (not suppress!) our human desires and our sexuality as an important aspect of our spirituality.
Shakti not only compliments Shiva, she completes him.
The divine masculine: conscious awareness
Shiva represents Absolute Consciousness or Absolute Reality. He is the transcendent aspect of consciousness. Shiva, remains outside and beyond all worldly affairs, and is the unchanging knower, the witness-awareness that both observes and contains the dance of life.
The nature of Shiva energy is steadfast, stable, peaceful, strong and totally unmoved with complete presence. Shiva represents the state of being unmoved by pain or suffering brought on by the external world. He is centred, grounded and compassionate.
Shiva’s consciousness can bring us the divine masculine qualities of stability and calmness, inner strength and spaciousness, direction and freedom. When we sit in meditation, cultivating clear presence and purpose, we are resting within our inner Shiva nature.
Shakti without Shiva is uncontrollably wild. Shakti’s energy is focused by the masculine qualities of awareness. Awareness allows the feminine to see herself and give containment and direction to her energy. Without Shiva, the power of Shakti has no support or receptacle to hold its energy within us.
Balance and union of the masculine and feminine
If we don’t see how to make both the masculine and feminine find equal roles to play in our lives (and society) we will live incomplete and unbalanced lives. Shiva and Parvati stand for the union of stillness and power, wisdom and bliss – the yogic merging of energy with spirit.
It is only when the masculine and feminine are in balance within can a human being live a life of fulfilment. For full creative empowerment the masculine and feminine polarities need to come together. Only when Shiva and Shakti combine can action, movement and creation arise. Shiva holds space for Shakti to move through; Shiva gives direction to Shakti’s shape-shifting energetic flow. We need the stability of linear focus of the masculine to merge with the inspiration and aliveness of the feminine.
When the god and the goddess come together in the individual and the collective psyche we experience the inner sacred marriage: the integration of spirit and feminine heart; intellect and feeling; freedom and fullness.
Awakening the Shiva and Shakti, the God and Goddess, the Yogi and the Yogini within us, we can set in motion all the dynamic currents of inner growth and transformation allowing their energies to spiral within us along their natural ascent into the Infinite. Frawley, 2008: 37-38
A Role Model for Relationships
Shiva and Shakti offers us a role model for contemporary relationships. This can be important as for many of us we do not necessarily have role models of successful relationships in our lives. It also offers a model for those who want to live a spiritual life in partnership. It is not limited to heterosexual relationships. It can be can be lived out in same-sex couples and in relationships where partners interchange their masculine and feminine roles.
The Shiva Parvati story represents the union between the fully realised feminine and the fully realised masculine. When Shiva and Shakti are alive and well in our internal world, when two people meet, they don’t need to project their life force (Shakti) or their consciousness (Shiva) onto the other.
The story highlights an important outcome for romantic love. It describes a relationship in which yoga, inner knowing, and self-cultivation are natural to the lovers. Both are complete in themselves, yet they also complete each other. Free to come together from a place where the masculine and feminine, awareness and energy, are incarnated and embodied equally. This in turn allows for deeper relationship and for greater fullness in each individual.
The story also tells us that the task of the inner life is not to separate spirit from its body and the world, as many mystical and religions traditions teach.
In traditional Indian life there has been an opposition between the ascetic yogi and spiritual seeker who withdraws from the world in order to realise his nature as spirit versus the householder who entangled in domesticity. Traditionally the demands of the world, epitomised by family life are diametrically opposed to the spiritual path and the path of the artist. It is often said that the mystic and artist need solitude and disengagement for the practice of their discipline.
In traditional religions, sexuality has not only been not embraced, it has been actively suppressed. Unlike these duality-based spirituality, where the human and the divine are separated, Tantra holds that both body and soul is made of the divine and thus embraces all of our bodily desires.
The story of Shiva and Parvati is a tale of learning to live a spiritual life in unity with another, whilst dancing out the ecstasy of relationship, an ecstasy that is a rhythmic dance between unity and separation, passion and detachment, movement and stillness. The ultimate marriage of spirit and body, wisdom and love, detachment and adoration so that the spirit and body can exist in in harmonious balance and infuse divine awareness into the worlds.
Shiva is the eternal drive for freedom, the yogi/yogini’s need to disentangle him/herself from the world. Parvati/Shakti on the other hand is the drive toward expressive fullness- emotion, rhythm, endless creativity (Kempton 2013)
Tantra Yoga the Union between the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine.
Bringing a Tantric perspective to our daily life and yoga practice we can become aware of the dance of the divine masculine and divine feminine within and between us,
Ardhanarishvara: Union of Shiva and Shakti Art work from Exotic Art India (www.exoticindiaart.com)
The deities add a richness to Yoga practice, both in terms of knowledge and energy. Once we establish a connection with Shiva and Shakti as deities inside ourselves, they can become our inner teachers and can guide us directly along our path. We begin to see their workings in all of life and nature which can bring great healing and awareness.
Yoga practiced in this way can bring greater balance to the two sides of our whole nature. We can marry the Shiva/God/Masculine and Shakti/Goddess/Feminine within ourselves. Being aware of and awakening the Shiva and Shakti in our yoga practice enables us to unite the masculine and feminine qualities of our nature.
Parvati shows that if our desire is strong enough, we make a full commitment to a transformative practice. Her yoga practice is not just about personal attainment or self cultivation, its all about love!
Three Practices to invoke and embody Shakti and Shiva
1. Yoga asana practice
You can bring the wisdom of Shiva and Shakti in an asana yoga practice by being aware of and embodying the qualities of the divine masculine and divine feminine.
For the masculine, cultivate awareness of your bodies strength, structure and alignment. Observe the breath and awareness of your body in the poses.
For the feminine, a flow practice can awaken your sensuality, feelings of bliss and playfulness. Be creative, and allow the body to follow its own creative movements that awaken feelings of bliss and pleasure.
Play music you love to inspire your practice. Here is a Shiva Shakti Playlist with some Kirtan chants to awaken Shakti and Shiva in your practice.
If you would like to learn some specific yoga and tantric practices to cultivate Shiva and Shakti in your yoga and you life, please see my Shiva and Shakti workshop.
This is a really simple meditation to awaken the dance between Shiva (the stillness and presence) and the Shakti (the flow) of the breath.
Come to your comfortable sitting position for mediation.
Grounding your body, feel the connection of your base to the earth. Lengthen the spine. Feel the connection of the crown reaching up to the sky.
Bring your awareness to your breath. Begin to notice the space between the inhale and the exhale.
Hold your breath for a fraction of a second between the inhale and exhale focusing on the space at the end of the inhalation and end of exhalation.
Let go of the hold, and now meditate on the space/pause between breaths.
Relax into the flow, continue focusing on the space, the void, the stillness and the space between the breaths.
3. Savasana and guided relaxation
This guided imagery is adapted from the Shiva and Parvati mediation from Sally Kempton (2013) on Shiva and Parvati.
Lying down in Savasana, begin to observe the different sensations in each side of the body. Begin by bringing awareness to what is arising.
Now, begin to visualise the left half of your body as Shakti and the right half as Shiva.
Imagine that the left half of your body is filled by the divine feminine as Goddess Parvati. Sense the qualities of the goddess in that half of your body: beauty, devotion, playfulness,, charm, sweetness, nourishing love, erotic tenderness, gracefulness, feminine strength.
Imagine the right side of the body is filled with the divine masculine in the form of Shiva. Feel his energy in your body. Sense his qualities of stability, steadiness, penetrating intellect, clarity of vision, peace, vastness, ruthless swiftness, masculine strength.
Let you attention move from the feminine side to the masculine side of your body. Notice the difference. Feel these two sides of the divine nature held within you. Sense them held in balance in your own body. The masculine and feminine in union within your body. The balance of masculine and feminine in your own being.
Ellik E.C. (2015) The Shakti Colouring Book: Goddesses, Mandalas and the Power of Sacred Geometry.
Frawley, D (20018) Inter Tantric Yoga. Working with the Universal Shakti: Secrets of Mantras, Deities and meditation. Lotus Press.
Kempton, S. (2013) Awakening Shakti: the Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga. Sounds True.
Kempton, S (2013) Shakti Meditations: guided practices to invoke the goddesses of yoga. Sounds True.
Pot-pourri is a mixture of long lasting scented dried herbs and flowers that are used to bring fragrance and perfume to a room.
You can also make a fresh edible ‘Pot-pourri’ to add to salads. Edible flowers can be a beautiful addition to our foods especially a green salad that bringing not only colour but also the healing properties of the flowers into your life and your stomach!
Here is one of my fresh Pot-pourri mixes of calendula, borage, coriander flower and heartsease all which are readily available throughout the salad seasons of spring, summer and autumn.
Get creative and use any edible flowers to make up your own edible pot-pourri, to add to your food or to gift a friend.
As it is spring here in the southern hemisphere, I feel inspired to share with you my passion and practice of healing with flowers.
I share some of my photography of the beautiful flowers that grow here in the gardens of TARA as well as some simple flower arranging ideas for your home including creating an altar for a devotional yoga practice.
I introduce the healing wisdom of these flowers, the language of flowers and flower psychometry as a way to bring more awareness and healing power to flowers.
I describe how to make your own healing posy, as well as simple ritual ideas for you to cultivate your own healing relationship with flowers that you can do in your own home and garden.
First a little background as to how I came to be writing about the healing of flowers
In my transition out of the corporate world I was fortunate to receive career change coaching to assist me in the big changes. When I allowed myself to expand out into ‘blue sky’ dreaming of what I would like to be doing with my time, ‘Florist’ kept popping up, along with my already known passions of teaching, yoga and cultural and social change.
I remember being very surprised by this, as a florist had never been on my career trajectory before. My path up to that point had been a social researcher in health and education and organisational change. However, as a little girl I remember how I loved growing flowers and herbs and making and creating endless craft items and potions with flowers and herbs.
It did not appeal to me to ‘train’ to be a florist, my desire came purely from my love of growing, picking and arranging flowers.
All my adult life I have enjoyed visiting gardens, particularly flower gardens, and having fresh flowers in the house. For my 40th birthday, just ahead of my health crisis, my husband gave me the beautiful book Fresh Cut Flowers by Gregory Milner, a book which continues to inspire me, my garden and home flower arrangements.
At my mid life crisis, it was my garden and flowers that came back as a core healing for me along with my pathway into feminine yoga. The fresh organic fruit, vegetables and herbs feed me and my family, and the flowers nourish and heal my feminine soul.
“A flower garden is a symbol of the feminine in nature, a specially devised womb for the conception and growth of living forces” McIntyre, 1996
More recently the health researcher in me has become fascinated by the history and practice of healing with flowers.
Flower Healing Modalities
Plants and flowers have long been associated with healing, not just for our physical ills, but also imbalances in the realms of the mind and the spirit that many give rise to bodily symptoms.
There are many forms of healing modalities that use flowers: Homeopathy; Aromatherapy, Flower Essences; Bach Flower and Australian Bush Flower remedies etc. I love these modalities and have drawn on them at different times in my life from wonderful therapists and teachers.
For my own self-care and healing, I enjoy the very simple and natural intuitive healing power of growing and arranging flowers which is readily available to all of us.
As I am sure you know if you are reading this blog, there is something very healing about being with flowers which explains the worldwide love of growing flowers in gardens and displaying flowers in homes, workplaces, hospitals and places of worship.
I recently discovered the term Flower Psychometry. Psychometry, as in the Oxford English Dictionary is the ‘divination of facts about events or people etc. from inanimate objects associated with them’. Making ‘Flower psychometry’ the intuitive resonance and relationship of the person’s ‘psyche’ to a flower.
As many lovers of flowers know, a flower can be a powerful expression of emotional sentiment. There are common emotions, feelings and qualities associated with different flowers which has led to a shared ‘language of flowers’.
Anne McIntyre provides an interesting overview of the history of the language of flowers and how it was a common form of communication in China, Egypt and India and further developed in Turkey and then England in the 18 Century.
Flowers have the ability to express life of the Spirit where they can express the intangible religious/spiritual concepts that are not easily expressed through verbal communication (McIntyre, 1996)
There are many Language of Flower ”catalogues’ easily available online that provide common meanings that have been passed down culturally over time. Equally, a flower can arouse a very personal response. I enjoy looking at the shared meanings and asking the question “does that meaning resonate with me?”
Personally I have found flowers to be healing on so many levels. Simply being in the garden and observing flowers with all my senses is a powerful grounding and uplifting practice. Awakening the sense of smell with the alluring scents; the sense of sight with the vibrant and diverse colours. I love listening to the hum of bees pollinating a plant in flower. Some flowers are edible, so bringing them into the kitchen and our food only deepens this connection through taste and digestion. Flowers can also be a powerful way to awaken the sensual bodily self for example, flower petals floating in a bath.
Growing flowers and bringing them into the home has the important benefit of connecting me to the season. As both Ayurveda and the Five Element Theory have taught me, when we are aligned with the seasons we can more easily achieve greater health and wellbeing.
Flowers are a wonderful symbol of the cycle of life through the different stages of a flowers development: from planting the seed, to growing and developing, to blooming and then eventually withering and dying and lying dormant or seeding for the next years cycle of rebirthing into a new cycle.
My Healing Flower garden
My flower garden here at TARA could be described as wild cottage garden. It is also quickly becoming a collectors garden of healing flowers and herbs. In this blog I focus on flowers. I will be writing more blogs in future on herbs.
We have a range of perennial flowers that emerge again and again year after year, expanding and thereby offering us divisions to extend the garden beds, and to pot up for others to enjoy. Many of the annuals readily self seed offering new creative displays in the garden.
I am continually on the look out for new and interesting flowers that grow well in the extreme climate here in Central Victoria, where we can get summer temperatures as high as 47 degrees celsius, and frosty winters as low as -7 degrees. We grow according principles of permaculture and companion planting, using the flowers and herbs to benefit all the garden, in particular our food production.
We have distinct seasons and with this a great diversity of flowers so we get to experience the wonders of beautiful floral displays throughout the year.
Below I showcase through photos some of the late winter and spring flowers that are blooming here in the gardens of TARA and I share with you some examples of the ‘Language of Flowers’ and common symbolic meanings of these flowers. Please see the bibliography at the end of the website for the sources of these meanings.
Diverse Pink Camellias in the gardens of TARA
Diverse Pink Camellias in the gardens of TARA
Diverse Pink Camellias in the gardens of TARA
We have an abundance of beautiful Pink Camellias through the winter and spring. The Camellia flower speaks to the heart. Some of the most common meanings of Camellia are: Desire or Passion; Refinement; Perfection & Excellence; Faithfulness & Longevity.
Jonquils and Daffodils
The first sign of Spring comes with the Jonquils. The meaning of Jonquils are many, including ‘Desire for Affection Returned’. For me, the Jonquils and Early Cheer offer the their uplifting visual display and scent of Hope and Joy.
Jonquils in the gardens of TARA
Early Spring Jonquils in the gardens of TARA
The Jonquils are soon followed (or overlapped) with many varieties of daffodils. While the Daffodil’s primary symbolism is that of new beginnings, rebirth and the coming of spring, it has many others including Creativity and Inspiration; Renewal and Vitality; Awareness and Inner Reflection; Memory; Forgiveness.
Calendula flowers readily self sows throughout the vegetable and flower gardens through most of the year. We now have Orange and Yellow single petalled and the wonderful multi petaled orange petal. A wonderful flower in a vase! And this year I have just planted some seeds of a new variety from the Diggers Club, Pacific Apricot, which I look forward to enjoying this summer.
The healing properties of Calendula or marigold has been well known to herbalists for centuries (McIntyre, 1996). The flowers are edible and so it is a great bright colour addition to a salad. See my fresh edible ‘Pot-pourri’ salad recipe ideas. I also use it to make our own nourishing moisturising cream.
A common flower meaning of calendula is “Despair and Grief and “Prophetic Prediction”. As the flower of the sun, it is a comforter of the heart and spirits.
Orange Calendula Flowers readily self seed and flower throughout the year
Each year through the spring, summer and autumn, we have amazing displays of a variety of poppies, many of which pop up now from seeds from the previous year.
Diverse Poppies in the gardens of TARA
The symbolism of the Poppy varies greatly from country to country. The opium poppy can be known as ‘the flower of the underworld’.
Some of the most common language of flower meanings include: ‘Restful sleep/Eternal Sleep’; ‘Messages delivered in dreams’; ‘Oblivion’; ‘Imagination’. The Poppy can also symbolise ‘Beauty and Success’/ ‘Extravagance and Luxury’.
The Poppy, particularly the red poppy, can symbolise ‘Consolation’ for a loss or death and is used at Remembrance day celebrations to remember the fallen of various wars and armed conflicts. Other meanings of the Poppy can be ‘Peace in death’ and ‘Resurrection and eternal life’.
The poppy can be a symbol of the ephemeral pleasures of life… here one minute and gone the next! (McIntyre, 1996)
The Opium Poppy flower essence is used to help find a balance in daily life between activity and rest, the spiritual and the physical, evolution and being (McIntyre, 1996).
As the Opium poppy has potentially addictive qualities, the Californian Poppy offers a non addictive substitute and can be a gentle balancer to the emotions in times of stress.
Crab Apple Blossom
We have two big flowering crab apple trees which give us an incredible show of spring flowers that can be seen from our property for miles.
Whilst the crab apple is not such a good cut flower (as they tend to drop their petals quickly), they are visible through the windows from within the house.
Whilst I could not find a language flower meaning of crab apples, interestingly it is the Bach flower “remedy for cleansing” and was included in the original crisis remedy cream. (The Bach Centre)
The Flowers and the Birds and the Bees
And finally, it is important to remember that growing flowers is not just healing for us as humans but for the garden and the ecosystem as a whole. Flowers and their seeds are an essential addition to a permaculture garden, as it brings in the birds and beneficial insects for pollination. It is healing in itself to experience the wildlife enjoying the flowers!
Crimson Rosella eating silver birch seeds
Bees in the Pink Poppies
Bringing the healing power of flowers into the home.
Below I share with you some of the ways that I bring the flowers from the garden into the home, including the creation of devotional alters; Tussie-mussies or healing posies (including edible posies); and simple flower arranging with the fresh flowers grow in the garden.
I hope that some of these inspire you to pick some flowers and bring them into your life.
Creating a devotional altar
An ‘altar’ is a table, shelf or surface that is used as the focus for a religious or spiritual ritual, especially for making sacrifices or offerings to a deity.
I have numerous altars around the home, including my main altar where I meditate and practice yoga which and is the consistent place for me to go to for my personal devotional yoga practice.
Yoga Altar with Portulaca flowers; Roses and Ever lasting daisies.
Yoga Altar with my favourite Scented Pink Rose
Flowers have become a key part of my home self-care rituals more broadly, not just at the yoga mat. I always have fresh flowers displayed on various shelves and surfaces around the home and often include other symbolic icons including deity statues and or seasonal things I find in the garden. So as I move around my house these devotional altars and flowers bring me great peace, joy and connection to my feminine spirit.
Devotional Altars with Tulips with Ganesh and maternal lineage memorabilia
Devotional Altar with the beauty in a dying posy of rose, lavender and grannys bonnets with owl and Ganesh
As my students know, I also always bring fresh flowers to create an altar when I teach my yoga classes and workshops. Sometimes selecting a flower that represents a goddess that we are practicing with that week, for example red roses and/or red chrysanthemums for Durga. I love to share the abundance of the diverse spring flowers particularly in the Lakshmi class or in the ‘Second Spring’ self care for menopause workshop. For my Seasonal Yin Workshops I bring in anything from the seasonal garden to help connect us the the seasonal elements.
Devotional Yoga Altar: Durga the Goddess of inner strength and courage awakening the base chakra.
Devotional Yoga Altar: Lilac with Roses
Devotional Altar for Menopause and Yogic Self-care workshop Spring 2017
Tussie-mussie and healing posies
I love the name Tussie-mussie which is the name of a small healing posy. Tussie-mussies were originally popular in the 16th Century as a bunch of fresh herbs and flowers that were used as a practical way to mask the stench of rubbish and chamber pots emptied on the street! Tussie-mussies were also used as a form of disinfectant and protection from infectious disease. (Shipard, 2003)
Tussie-mussies now have more general definition and use as a small flower and herb posy that holds a healing intention. You can make a Tussie-mussies from a a specific selection of flowers and herbs to express the unique language of those flowers and herbs.
Lapel Tussie-Mussie: White Rose, Granny bonnet and French lavender
Tussie-mussies are a simple and wonderful way to bring healing flowers and herbs into your life and share them with others. They can be a beautiful gifts for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries as well as a get well gift. When I make a Tussie-mussie for a friend, I intuitively tune into the garden and select the flowers and herbs specifically for them.
I love making many little Tussie-mussies for small vases for those narrow shelves, corners, or the bathroom shelf.
Tussie-mussies can also be made up entirely of edible herbs that can then be used when needed in cooking or making a cup of fresh herbal tea. An edible Tussie-mussie can be a wonderful small gift to give a friend not only for the language of the posy, but for them to eat or drink.
Here are two summer Tussie-mussies made with a selection of flowers and herbs. Edible posies such as this, are wonderful placed on a kitchen shelf where you can for example use the spearmint to make cooling drinks through the summer.
I love the larger displays of the fresh flowers from the garden through the year. I find the larger flowers can be very simply displayed oftentimes just one variety to make the seasonal statement!
Camellia’s make a beautiful arrangement floating in a water bowl inside or outside in a garden bird bath.
Pink Camelias in a bowl
Camelias in the garden birdbath
Jonquils and Daffodils are easy to display and it is a great way to bring spring into the home. I love the large vases full of bunches of amassed Daffodils and mixing the many varieties growing here in the garden. Here are the daffodils we had at our first Spring Open Garden this year.
Simple Spring Daffodil Displays in a vase
Simple Spring Daffodil Displays in a vase
In the spring/early summer garden we have purple irises which on their own are beautiful. And I love the buddleia displayed here with rough and random green foliage of scented geranium and lavender stems.
Light Purple Bearded Iris
Buddleia, scented geranium and lavender leaves
In the late summer garden we have an abundance of the vibrant golden yellow of the Jerusalem Artichokes and in the autumn around Mothers Day, the deep red chrysanthemums, which are classic flower for Mother’s day.
Jerusalem Artichoke Flowers
How to create your own Healing Posy
Flower selection and creating a posy can range from a very simple intuitive process to a deeper ritual. I share with you some ideas to get you started.
A very simple healing ritual is to set an intention when picking or selecting the flowers and when putting them together and placing them around the home. This is the main style of flower arranging I do in my home each week which fits more easily around our often busy schedules.
I do it more intentionally on special occasions, including at new and full moons, and when making a posy as a gift for a friend.
Intentional practice can include meditation or a shamanic drum journey, or any practice that essentially takes you away from the rational mind, connects you deeper into your intuitive and creative self, and grounds and connects you to the earth. A meditation that awakens the senses is also beneficial, although I find this naturally happens when connecting with the flowers.
You can simply make the posy, or if you want to deepen the process and ritual, you can them research the language of the flowers in your posy from links below.
Trust the process and Enjoy!
Putting together your posy.
You can either just randomly select flowers in an intuitive order. Or you can be more structured and systematic with the following instructions.
The Daffodil collection here at TARA
Summer flowers for posy making here at TARA
Lay the flowers and herbs out by type on the table and, using scissors or your hands, strip all the leaves off the bottom two-thirds of the stem. Flowers will last longer without the leaves fouling the water.
Choose a structural or large flower for the centre of the posy.
Holding your central piece, choose a different and contrasting flower/herb to make the first ring around the centre. Add a piece, turn the posy slightly, add another piece and so on until you have a complete ring.
Choose another flower or herb to repeat this process. Try to choose one that is a different colour, has flowers, or has different-sized leaves to provide contrast.
Some herbs, like lavender, may need more than one ring added to create a bigger impact, so keep adding pieces to get the effect you like.
If you are giving the posy as a gift, you will want to tie up the posy. You could use a rubber band around the top of the stems to hold in place, just where the leaves start. Use a ribbon or rustic string to make more pretty. Get creative with what you can use. You can even try grasses from the garden.
Cut off the bottoms of the stems with secateurs (or scissors if stems are tender) so they have a neat finish.
You can simple enjoy the healing qualities of your beautiful posy OR
Optional: if you wish to explore the meaning behind the flowers research and reflect on the meaning of the flowers. Start by looking at the ‘Language of Flower’ websites listed below, and reflecting if these meanings resonate with you. See what arises.
This is a beautiful posy my friend made with flowers from TARA last Christmas when we caught up for a drink. It includes a large red poppy in the centre, with pyrethrum, dried poppy seed heads, lavender, cornflowers, sweet peas, queen annes lace and yarrow.
My Friends Healing Posy made with flowers from my garden.
McIntyre, A (1996) The Complete Floral Healer. Gaia Books Limited, London.
Milner, G (2009) Fresh Cut Flowers, JoJo Publishing, Victoria.
Shipard, I (2009) How can I use Herbs in my daily life? 4th Edition. David Stewart, Nambour, Qld.
The Language of Flowers I reference in this blog, come from the following websites:
I invite you to use these to discover the meanings of the posies you make.
* The health information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute for medical advice or diagnosis provided by your medical or other health professional. Do not use this information to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or health condition. If you have, or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your physician or health care provider.
Welcome to my latest blog on the Mahavidya wisdom goddesses of yoga. Today I introduce Dhumavati, the grandmother spirit, the old crone, and the elder of the goddesses.
In the post that follows, I will:
give an overview of the symbolism from mythology.
point out where we can see the presence of Dhumavati in our lives.
explore what she has to offer us on a path of yoga, including the blessings/boons that come from awakening and embodying this goddess.
share 5 yoga practices for you to do at home to awaken the gifts of Dhumavati.
If you would like to read my earlier blogs including the background of practicing with these goddesses of yoga, please see Kali and Lakshmi/Kamalamika.
But first, a background on what has lead me to explore this goddess
I didn’t plan to write my next feminine yoga blog on Dhumavati. To be honest, I have shied away from practicing and teaching with this particular wisdom goddess. Let’s face it, the old, lonely crone is not very appealing…at least at first glance.
In the recent months, Dhumavati (and her crows!) have flown into my life with what feels like a divine gift. Her presence has helped me navigate major life challenges, in particular the grief, that is arising from a few situations in my personal realm. Recently, I have been holding space for my 80 year old mother’s last stages of dementia as well as for my teenage son’s chronic illness and subsequent darkness of the soul.
These events have come on top of 6 years of major disappointments and losses for me and my family. In recent years, we have also suffered: my adrenal stress breakdown in a corporate career, my father’s death, my son’s diagnosis of Diabetes 1, and my husband’s diagnosis, treatment and recovery through cancer.
I have found practicing with Dhumavati to help me in many ways. Most importantly, she has helped me to navigate the layers of grief that are arising from my family’s trials. I felt a strong impulse to write this blog because of the profound experiences and support I have received from working with this goddess during this time. I have also begun to teach her wisdom in my yoga classes and workshops.
Dhumavati’s greatest gift is the transmutation of disappointment, failure, loss and grief. She is the goddess we can call on when we are navigating the ‘void’ within life’s disappointments. She is especially powerful during the big losses such as relationship breakups, chronic illness and death.
Dhumavati can help us not only ‘be with’ these challenges, but practicing with her can help transmute these experiences into wisdom and peace. In essence, through suffering we can learn compassion, patience, tolerance, perseverance, understanding and forgiveness.
I would like to add, whilst I have found yoga to be hugely beneficial to dealing with the pain and loss, it can at times be a journey. It is important to seek professional psychological support if you are embarking on exploring the terrain of disappointment, loss and grief as outlined in this blog. In the ‘yoga world’ we need to be mindful of the ‘spiritual bypass’ which can be the tendency to jump to spirit prematurely, usually in an effort to avoid the difficult shadowy aspects of being human in our earthly reality. It can of course be tricky to explore the shadow world on one’s own, as by its nature it is hidden, and has in my understanding been built up out of our our deepest fears, and a need for self-protection.
Who is Dhumavati, the Archetype, and Why is She Important to Us?
As with all of the goddesses, examining the iconography of Dhumavati can help us gain a better understanding and connection to her energy. We can then invoke her wisdom into our embodied yoga practice.
Dhumavati is the grandmother spirit, the crone, the widow. She is the elder amongst the 10 Mahavidya goddesses and is an ancestral guide for the other younger goddesses. Here she is pictured as the 7th Goddess from the left in a stalled chariot with her crow.
Each of these goddess archetypes are a part of our psyche and lives. Some are more prevalent during different ‘seasons’ of our lives and some may be laying latent and unexpressed waiting for us to discover their power when the time is right. I want to point out that we are able to awaken any of the goddesses regardless of our own age and stage of life. We do not need to be older women to invoke and receive the boons of practicing with Dhumavati, just as we do not need to be sixteen to invoke the goddess Tripuri Sundari!
In the next section, I will unpack some of symbolism and meaning of Dhumavati including: her name ‘the smoky one’ and the portrayal of her as the crone – an old ugly widow who is alone, with just a crow for company, sitting on a stalled chariot with a winnowing basket.
Dhumavati – ‘The Smoky One’
dhum means smoke, hence, Dhumavati means ‘smoky one’, the one who is composed of smoke. The symbolism of smoke is paradoxical, as is the power of Dhumavati.
At one level, the experience of hardship and suffering, or the ‘smoke’, can cloud our vision and understanding. Her smoky darkness can take us into the clouds of pain and difficulty that accompany disappointment, loss, ageing, illness and death. These circumstances can seem to block out the light causing us to feel lost and bereft.
On another level, her smokiness is a gift. Dhumavati’s gift is obscuration. By obscuring all that is known, she reveals to us the depth of the unknown and the un-manifest. The smoke offers us the capacity to reveal a deeper truth beneath the illusionary world of our current state of awareness. Dhumavati helps us to let go of attachments to perceptions by looking through the smoke screen and revealing what is underneath or beyond. When we can finally see what is hidden, it can bring us great freedom and a sense of deep relaxation.
Uma Dinsmore-Tuli reflects that Dhumavati can help us to see all angles of a situation, and through cultivating a sense of detachment and perspective we can gain a deeper insight. We can “see the light in the cloud… and can appreciate the power of time as a healer” p414
The Symbolism of the Crone, a Lone Widow with a Winnowing Basket on a Stalled Chariot
Most imagery of Dhumavati portray her as old, ugly, disheveled, and skeletally thin. Half of her teeth are missing, her wild hair is matted, and she wears dirty old rags. There is a sharp look on her wrinkly face. She is, in essence, a bag lady.
Below are some images of Dhumavati that I share in my yoga classes. I find using black and white images can be helpful in minimising any cultural overlay of meaning.
Dhumavati’s ugly, fearful appearance is not intended to frighten us, but instead to reveal the danger of considering sensory pleasure as bringing fulfilment. She teaches us to look beyond apparent beauty to inner truth. Teaching us the negative side of life, she liberates us from the attachment and unfolds the inner reality Frawley, 1994, p126
Dhumavati and her crow. Artist: Rabi Behra (www.exoticindia.com)
As Kempton (2013) describes, Dhumavati is seen sitting on a stalled chariot which represents “the stillness of the eternal present.” Here Dhumavati exists as a potential force until the experience of suffering awakens our consciousness and provides us with the motivating, directional focus to release her immense energy.
One of Dhumavati’s hands is held in cin mudra, the gesture of knowledge. In the other hand she holds a winnowing basket. This represents the power of discrimination whereby we can separate the grain (the ‘real’) from the chaff (the ‘unreal’). As Frawley points out, the winnowing basket represents the need to discern the inner essence from the illusory reality of outer forms.
Without passing through Dhumavati’s winnowing basket, we remain trapped by our dreams of success, our fear of loss… With her grace, we can mine the exquisite wisdom hidden in the heart of life’s most difficult moments. Kempton, 2013, p222
The basket represents her power to teach us discrimination through suffering, and how we come to understand what really matters in life. As Uma Dinsmore-Tuli describes, at the end of the sorting process we discard the chaff in the same way we learn to discard thoughts and beliefs that no longer feed life and the growth of spirit.
Dhumavati is Kali as an old woman. She is time that has passed. She gives us the wisdom to recognise that change, transience and impermanence are the only constants in life. She give us the power to live with our presence, and the focus on what truly matters free from attachment.
In the mythological stories, Dhumavati is portrayed as a lone old woman, a widow with no male consort. She represents the power of solitude. As Sally Kempton says, Dhumavati brings great comfort in being alone, so much so that we can find that we crave time alone. It is an aloneness that is not gripped with loneliness, rather an aloneness that brings a kind of solitude that is very happy to stand outside from the game of life.
When I was 45 years old, I first experienced the wisdom of Dhumavati in my yoga teacher training. I felt the comfort and peace in being alone, holding the many deep emotions that I was experiencing with my husband’s cancer diagnosis. I also observed that the younger women in the course (I was the oldest) did not seem to embrace this particular goddess. As Sally Kempton reflects, most young people have too much bubbly energy and an urgent desire to surrender to a path of giving up and letting go.
Dhumavati is a widow, with no male consort. This has significant meaning. In Tantra, goddesses are understood to be half of the Shiva/Shakti pair representing consciousness (Shiva) and energy (Shakti). Dhumavati, on the other hand, is solitary. She is the only goddess of the 10 Mahavidya wisdom goddesses who does not have a male consort. In this way she can represent the unsupported feminine.
“Dhumavati is the feminine, devoid of the masculine principle. She is Shakti without Shiva, as a pure potential energy without any will to motivate it. She contains within herself all potentials and shows the latent energies that dwell within us” Frawley, 1994 p122
Traditional practices in India advise that married or household devotees should not practice with Dhumavati. I assume that it is believed that invoking her power will dissolve marriages and relationships. However, it makes me wonder if this is yet another aspect of patriarchal culture that represses the wisdom of the wise woman.
By denying or suppressing this archetype, we sadly miss out on her profound teachings. Now that contemporary tantric texts are available to us (including David Frawley (1994), Sally Kempton (2013) and Uma Dinsmore-Tuli (2014), the teachings of this crone goddess are readily accessible. We can more readily awaken and embrace the wisdom of the grandmother/crone into our lives and society.
The crow is Dhumavati’s animal emblem. The crow can be seen either sitting beside her or as portrayed on a flag attached to her chariot. In Hindu belief, crows are considered ancestors as seen during the practice of Śrāddha- the ritual that is performed to pay homage to one’s ‘ancestors’, especially to one’s dead parents. This imagery has personally brought me great meaning during this time of holding space for my dying mother in her long and drawn out experience of dying from dementia.
Below is an overview of symbolism of the crow from shamanist traditions, including that from my medicine cards (Sams and Carson, 1988). I am struck by its parallel symbolism with Dhumavati and how the archetypal symbolism of both crow and crone from different traditions bring a similar medicine and message.
The crow is associated with life, mysteries and magic. Crows are considered to be the keepers of the Sacred Law/Lore. Nothing escapes their keen sight. Just like with imagery of Dhumavati, they are often portrayed with sharp, clear eyes. Crows are also symbolic of hearing the ‘unheard’ sounds, as they can hear very low sound frequencies, that which the human ears cannot hear.
The crow can be seen as the archetype of the trickster. If you see a crow, it is thought that you should be aware of deceiving appearances. Again, we see a parallel with Dhumavati’s ability to see through the smokescreen of illusion.
Other traditional meanings associated with the crow include: death, inauspiciousness, darkness and decay. The crow can also be a deeply powerful symbol of transmutation or transformation through death as well as the void or core of creation.
When we meditate on the crow and align with it, we are instilled with the wisdom and knowledge beyond the limitations of one-dimensional thinking and laws.
Where Can We See Dhumavati in our Lives?
As with all the goddesses, we can see Dhumavati in different aspects of our internal and external world. The more we practice with these wisdom goddesses, the more we come to see and feel their Shakti energy everywhere. In the recent months as I have practiced with Dhumavati, I have been astounded by how visceral and real the imagery has become.
I have seen crows each and every day in different circumstances, calling me to reflect deeply on this medicine. I have journeyed with crow medicine through a number of shamanic drum journeys. Each day I see crows in my garden or whilst driving through the countryside. I see them sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs, and oftentimes in groups. I have seen them eating dead kangaroo carrion on the side of the road. And if I am not seeing them, I often hear their call, “CAW!”
I have been harnessing the wisdom of these shamanic messages by reflecting on my thoughts or what is arising for me in the moment when I see/hear the crow, which brings greater consciousness to the moment.
Despite seeing so many of them, I have found it very difficult to take a clear photo of the crow. I have heard this from several bird photographers as well. This demonstrates to me the transient nature of this medicine, the surrendering and the letting go.
Because she is an old woman, we most obviously see Dhumavati in the elderly. We can also see her in homeless people, in the ill and in the dying. We can see Dhumavati en masse in old age homes. I have been contemplating this deeply in my recent visit to my mother’s old age home dementia ward.
My Mum, Jenny Mallick, at St Annes Nursing home, April 2018, 80 years old (Photo by Jane Mallick)
As I have been immersing myself in my practice with Dhumavati, I was struck on two occasions by how the physical manifestation of this goddess can present in our body. First, I started to feel the growth of a small clump of wiry hair growing on my chin. It felt to me as if I was growing a hairy wart on my chin, conjuring up the symbolism of a witch. Whereas in the past during my days in the corporate world I would have been horrified, I have become quite fond of this growth during these months of practice with Dhumavati.
Secondly, one of my regular students, on the night of the Dhumavati class, messaged me to tell me that she had broken a front tooth and that she was very embarrassed so she would be slipping in and out of class unseen. At the end of the class, I caught a glimpse of her after the meditation with her beautiful toothless cheeky grin beaming across her face! In this moment she was to me the perfect embodiment of Dhumavati.
We can also see Dhumavati in the natural world. In the cycle of the moon, she is represented by the end of the moon cycle – the Dark Moon. We can tune into the energy of Dhumavati in the blackness and the void on these moonless nights. She is further represented by the season of winter and the coldness, darkness and bareness that it brings.
Oak Tree in Taradale
Our Nashi Pear Trees in Winter
Winter trees in Taradale. Photos by Jane Mallick
On an emotional level, we can feel Dhumavati in our lives when we experience loss or disappointment. She shows up especially in areas of our life that we are very ‘attached’ to. Dhumavati represents the negative aspects life: disappointment, loss, frustration, humiliation, defeat, sorrow and loneliness. She is the ‘dark night of the soul’. When all that we know is gone and we can no longer see a path forward.
It is often through external forces like illness, disappointment, endings and death that we are introduced to Dhumavati. She shows up in our bigger losses when we are in mourning and in states of depression and hopelessness. We can also experience her at any point in our own lives. All of us, at some point will experience disappointment, loss and suffering. It could happen at an early age or all at once and ultimately, all of us will meet the Dhumavati energy when we face our own deaths.
You may ask why invoke this goddess? At the surface, it hardly feels enticing. But if you look deeper, you will see that she has subtle and profound boons to share.
As Sally Kempton says in her Dhumavati Shakti Meditation:
Dhumavati might not be a goddess you choose to turn to and awaken and embody. You may not need her, nor identify with her energy right now, but know that she is here and that you can call on her as and when you need her.Kempton, 2013
Dhumavati Medicine and Boons
I will now describe some of the gifts and boons of practicing with the goddess Dhumavati, including examples from my personal journey and that of some of my students.
The Art of Surrender
Dhumavati offers us the gift of letting go. Whilst Kali is also a goddess of letting go, in my experience Dhumavati’s medicine can be felt much deeper. Kali helps us navigate the blockages in our path and is often expressed in ferocity and anger. Dhumavati’s energy, on the other hand, is expressed in stillness and surrender.
There can be so much tension and anxiety in trying to control aspects of our life. Dhumavati can show us that when we let go of control of expectations and outcomes, we can experience a profound sense of peace.
As a highly anxious person, I have spent many years of my life trying to control many aspects of my life. This all changed during my mid-life crisis, where a whole series of events, one by one, called me to let go and surrender. I have found that the only way through these challenges has been to let go of expectation.
The first time I experienced the power of letting go is when I left my corporate job and I had to release the identity that I had spent years building. In the end I found peace in letting this identity fall away to a point where all that remained was my deeper self.
More recently, practicing with Dhumavati has helped me let go of anxiety as well as control of my son’s health. I know intellectually that it is part of his rite of passage as an adolescent to navigate his own life journey, including his chronic health challenges. But, as a mother it is one of the hardest things to see our children suffer. My practice with Dhumavati has been a key medicine for me to navigate this time of transition in our relationship.
After my yin yoga class with Dhumavati, one of my students (M.W.) shared with me how she experienced the goddess’ medicine. As an older woman practicing with the archetype of the crone goddess very much resonated with her. She described how in the week prior to the class, she had had a really difficult week, one in which she had held herself to unrealistic expectations.
Our practice with Dhumavati helped her to recognise and accept her own wisdom, whilst helping her to let go of the expectations and subsequent punishing thoughts. In doing so, she felt a greater acceptance of what is, as well as a deep peace and understanding. She described feeling more room for acceptance of herself and others, and for life in general.
Dealing with Disappointment, Loss and Grief
Dhumavati is the goddess that helps us navigate the ‘negative’ aspects of life. She represents the good fortune that come to us from misfortune – the auspiciousness that can arise from inauspiciousness.
“Disappointment is a multilayered teacher. Not many of us would choose to apprentice with her, yet sooner or later, most of us do. People disappointment us, luck runs out, status declines, strength fails us. Then the goddess Dhumavati flies into our awareness, accompanied by her crow, a harbinger of worldly misfortune, who ironically also bestows the inner gifts of detachment, emptiness and freedom. Kempton, 2013, p221
To be able to receive the gifts of disappointment and loss is a rare skill and not something that we are necessarily willing or choose to open to. This is where Dhumavati is a valuable guide, a helpful medicine for us to invoke in our yoga and our lives.
All of us have experienced disappointments and loss in some way or form: relationships break down, we or our loved ones suffer from illness and people around us die. All too often, the grief associated with loss gets tucked away, often pre-emptively, and we move on. We are often encouraged (or required) to return back to the functioning world. Grief can become lodged and stuck. This can limit our ability to grow and move forward in life. It can limit our ability to love.
Yoga asana can be a powerful tool for connecting with these deeper emotions that are held within the body. As we open the energy in the body, emotions can be free to move.
I often find that emotions are unlocked through my yoga practice. In my early days of practicing yoga at an ashram in London, I recall a class where practicing Cobra/Bhujangasana opened a huge amount of tears and emotional release for me. I also remember there was no acknowledgement nor checking in with me from the teacher, which for me established the tone that the expression of tears and emotions were not welcomed into the yoga.
Since then, after practicing many styles of yoga and feminine embodied practices, I now embrace and move with the emotions as they arise adapting the practice to what is needed in the moment. Practice with Dhumavati has further helped me to be with and enter further into the layers of grief. Dhumavati can bring a reverence to the sorrow and disappointment that we can feel.
I have found as I surrender to the feelings of grief and sadness, the wave of tears flow. The tears last for few minutes, followed by a sense of peace and stillness that arise after emotion has fully moved through. I also notice the attachments and perceptions in the stories of these past experiences begin to dissipate.
Seeing Truth Beyond the Illusion
Dhumavati as the ‘smoky one’, helps us see through the illusionary world, taking us inward to reveal a deeper truth. She invites us to be with the deeper inner reality, and can help us transmute desire leading us to experience deeper truth and wisdom.
This year, I burnt a massive bonfire for Samhain, from trees and branches that had fallen during a ferocious storm last summer. Samhain is a traditional Northern European festival that marks the beginning of winter. I made a Dhumavati ceremony of it.
As I burnt the bonfire, I was alone calling in and meditating on Dhumavati to hold me, in my holding of my mother’s dementia, my son’s illness, and the layers of grief that were coming up for me. I drummed my medicine drum. I spent time gazing into the smoke. I watched the smoky translucent layers that dance around. I watched as they disappeared and then reappeared. I saw the dance between the flames of Kali, burning away the old, and the smoke of Dhumavati.
Photos by Jane Mallick. Samhain 2018: Dhumavati ceremony.
Through this practice I experienced deep and gentle waves of grief that moved through me, followed by deep feelings of peace. At the end of the ceremony a rainbow appeared. To me awakening the deeper beauty that lies beyond our illusionary world.
Finding Peace in the Void
Dhumavati is the void, where all forms have been dissolved and nothing can any longer be differentiated. When what we have known no longer applies.
As Sally Kempton says in her Dhumavati Shakti Meditation “In any creative, growth process or change process, there is a difficult but necessary stage of void. All efforts have been fruitless, nothing is working. You know there is further to go, but you don’t know how to get there”.
The void is often felt or described as darkness, as is the Dhumavati energy. However as Frawley points out the void can be a Self-illumining reality, free of the ordinary duality of subject and object. It is not just emptiness, but rather it is the cessation of the movements of the mind.
The Black Void. Photo by Jane Mallick I ‘accidentally’ took this photo during my recent Samhain ceremony.
Practicing with Dhumavati can help us to sit and be ‘with’ the void, the not knowing. She can help us to look within, into the darker, shadowy, more painful aspects of life. Her form is not pleasant or appealing, but rather shows us the dark shadow of the world so that we are no longer entranced by its superficial joys.
When we sit in the unknown, in the void, what can arise is a knowing from a deeper place of wisdom. Dhumavati can reveal to us the imperfect, the transient, unhappy and confused state of ordinary egotistic existence so that we can then transcend it.
As both Frawley (1994) and Kempton (2013) point out, if your goal is to move deeply into meditation consciousness, Dhumavati is an essential part of the journey to awakening.
From Dualistic Thinking to Greater Wisdom and Freedom.
We live in largely a dualistic world. Dualism is defined as the conceptual division of something into two opposed or contrasted aspects, or the state of being so divided. (English Oxford Living Dictionary). Dualistic thinking can contribute to great suffering in our modern world.
Non-duality, on the other hand, is a state of consciousness in which the dichotomy of I-other is transcended. Non-dualistic teachings and meditation/contemplation practices can be seen in many eastern and western spiritual traditions.
Dhumavati offers us a powerful window into the transcendence of duality. In my yoga teacher training, I recall being so inspired and awakened by the Dhumavati practice and my experience of the embodiment of non-duality through the yoga asana, meditation and contemplation practices. I had a clear vision of how much of a struggle and how exhausting the dualistic western mindset had been on me, my body and my life.
Through meditating and invoking Dhumavati, we can cultivate a sense of detachment from our possessions, relationships and identities so that we can experience a deeper truth. We can cultivate a ‘birds eye’ view from the perspective of the higher self, looking down at the parts that play out in our lives. Just like the crow’s sharp and wise perspective!
Dhumavati can also give us the paradoxical wisdom of forgetting. I was struck when I last visited my mother in her last stage of dementia, She can no longer talk nor move and her functional memory was lost years ago. Whilst this may seem a very scary existence, on this visit I found peace in how free she was from attachments to the world.
This can be a refreshing viewpoint for us as we age, and find our sharp mind and or memory fading. In later life, when we review our many decades of accumulated experiences, we can choose to let go of or forget the aspects of our lives that bind us to a limited understanding of who we really are. We acquire the discriminative power to choose to forgive and forget those experiences and people who distract us from a purer state of being.
Summary of Dhumavati’s Boons
On the path of awakening, there will be many times when we are called to ‘die’, to let go of someone, or something. At these moments she is there, holding out her hand to guide us through disappointment, loss and grief and showing us that there can be peace and freedom on the other side.
Dhumavati takes us down into a cave of the soul, and when we follow her, she shows us the spring that bubbles up out of the empty places of the heart. Kempton, 2013, p 227
So I would like to finish with a reflection from one of my students in her recent discovery of the archetype of Dhumavati.
“From the moment I saw an image of her, I felt a strange connection to her. I liked that she was alone, and often seen riding on a crow. Perhaps it was because I often walk alone, only accompanied by crows.
Unlike the other goddesses, she was ordinary looking (with 2 arms!) – and not beautiful like Lakshmi, or fierce like Kali or talented like Saraswati. She is the goddess of misfits, freaks, losers and outsiders, which in a time when social conformity and conservatism seems rife, sits and suits me well.
She is sometimes seen holding a winnowing basket, to sort the grain from the chaff. I enjoy this no-nonsense approach – her age and wisdom giving her the ability to cut through the crap! At this stage in my life I have found myself without any elders, and this is an absence I am keenly aware of. Dhumavati, to some extent, fills this space.
I have been through many struggles and challenges in the past decade, which seem never ending. Dhumavati taught me, that instead of asking ‘Why Me?’ or ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ or ‘How can I change these things?’ that when everything else around me break downs or is taken away it may be better to surrender and yield and instead focus on caring for my inner equilibrium.” L.D.
5 Practices to invoke the wisdom of Dhumavati
The repetition of a mantra can be a way to invoke the energies of the goddesses. I know that some feel uncomfortable with repeating a Sanskrit mantra, so maybe you would prefer the English mantra:
Letting Go can be Dhumavati’s simplest and deepest medicine.
If you would like to use a Sanskrit mantra, here is an easy and accessible mantra:
Dhum dhum dhumavati svaha
Dhum as ‘smoke’, to obscure. This mantra can obscure or darken our perception and any false light. And then as we ‘see’ through the smoke we can gain access to a deeper inner truth. Smoke can also invoke a protective smoke that shields us from any negativity.
Smoking ritual: Create some form of a ritual around fire and smoke. You could burn a fire, if you have a place to do so. Create smoke or smudging. Or you could simply light a candle and observe the smoke.
The practice could include gazing into the smoke and gently holding in your mind the sorrow or disappointment you feel.
3 Yoga asana practice
Yin Yoga is a wonderful practice for working with Dhumavati. You may like to include any of the lung and large interesting meridian postures with a focus on looking inward, surrendering and letting go. For example, open wing/scorpion pose, sphynx or seal pose, and full forward fold/caterpillar pose.
4. Exploring the imagery of Dhumavati
Find an image of Dhumavati. Maybe one of the images here in this post, or search and find an image that resonates with you.
Print this out and put it on your alter, or a place at home or work that you will see the image often. Be curious…
what do you see?
what is invoked when you see and feel into the image of Dhumavati?
5. Yoga nidra practice
We can awaken and embody Dhumavati when we practice yoga nidra, savasana and deep sleep, whereby we consciously practice letting go, surrendering and entering the void.
Yoga nidra is a particularly powerful Dhumavati practice. It is, in essence, an awake and conscious sleep where we are guided back through the layers of consciousness to the pre-creation experience of pure bliss, to a time before our consciousness became identified with names, forms, distractions and illusions. Yoga nidra can give us the capacity to detach from all that is extraneous and irrelevant and instead connect us with a deeper truth and reality.
Uma Dinsmore-Tuli suggests that including the Dhumavati energy in our yoga nidra practice can help us to face our own mortality, and in essence to prepare for our death.
You can use the following instructions next time you settled down to a yoga nidra practice, savasana, or you can even practice this before going to sleep at night. I personally have found this profound practice to cultivate relaxation, and an embodied peace and acceptance.
Instructions: (adapted from Uma Dinsmore-Tuli)
Imagine that you are laying down your bones for the last time.
As you experience the heaviness, sense your dead heavy bones returning down to the earth.
As you experience lightness, sense your lifeless body going up in smoke, wafting high into the sky.
Now, spend some time alternating between these two experiences.
Through this process you may like to reflect on the reality that no matter how strong and healthy your body is, at some point we have to leave aside this physical vehicle.
It makes sense to bring this awareness of being in deaths anteroom to consciousness, and to get intimate with the inevitability of death and of our mortality.
Frawley, D. (1994) Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses. Lotus Press.
Kempton, S. (2013) Awakening Shakti: the Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga. Sounds True.
Kempton, S (2013) Shakti Meditations: guided practices to invoke the goddesses of yoga. Sounds True.
Sams, J and Carson, D (1988) Medicine cards: the discovery of power through the ways of animals. Bear and Company.
Taylor, L (2014) Notes from Sacred Journey into Yoga Teacher Training. For More information go to Lorraine Taylor Yoga for her 200 hour Sacred Journey into Yoga for Women, a month long ashtanga vinyasa yoga teacher training journeying with the Ten Mahavidya Goddesses.
Uma Dinsmore-Tuli (2014) Yoni Shakti: A woman’s guide to power and freedom through yoga and tantra. Yoga Words.
Nettles are such a rich source of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and C and iron and has antihistamine, anti inflammatory, astringent and diuretic properties. (Balick 2014) and as such practitioners can use nettle to treat anaemia, poor circulation, arthritis, allergies, menstrual problems, urinary tract infection and kidney stones.
Nettle is a wonderful herb for women’s health in general at the different stages of life/menstrual cycle. High in iron, it is a good blood builder for when bleeding and it is a great herb for menopause as I discovered from Susan Weed’s Wise Woman Way:
“Stinging nettle builds energy, strengthens the adrenals, and is said to restore youthful flexibility to blood vessels. A cup of nettle infusion contains 500 milligrams of calcium plus generous amounts of bone-building magnesium, potassium, silicon, boron, and zinc. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E, and K. For flexible bones, a healthy heart, thick hair, beautiful skin, and lots of energy, make friends with sister stinging nettle. It may make you feel so good you’ll jump up and exercise” Susan Weed (2002)
Growing and Nettles
I love growing nettles! It is an easy to grow ‘weed’.
As well as having great nutritional value, Nettle is a are great addition to a permaculture garden and can be used in a range of composting methods as a soil conditioner. I make a liquid manure/tea from nettle which is a great feed to give to plants for growth, particularly for greens.
Here on our property, I let nettle self seed, and allow it to establish in different parts of the garden for what we need. Here are two photos of some of our nettle crop this year. A big bunch growing on the edge of the broad bean bed and a patch of nettle (and random asian greens) growing in our chicken coup. Our 6 new pullets will be moving in soon and will most certainly finish off the greens!
Nettle interplanted in the broad bean patch
Nettle growing ‘wild’ in the chicken coup
Harvesting the nettle
I find the fresh, newer leaves are the best for this soup. It is best to harvest just before flowering. Once the nettle starts to go to seed. I find once the leaves start to darken and toughen up they are less sweet and juicy.
Many people can be afraid of nettle because of its ‘sting’. The solution is to wear gloves when handing fresh nettles. And then the sting is lost in the process of cooking or drying. Here is a photo of me trimming the juicy green nettle leaves for this soup.
Yummy Nettle Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 carrot diced
1 leek washed and finely sliced
1 large floury potato thinly sliced
1 L chicken or vegetable stock
400g nettle leaves
50ml double cream
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, leek and potato, and cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
Add the stock and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the potato is soft.
Add the nettle leaves simmer for 1 minute until they wilt. Blend the soup.
Season to taste, then stir in the butter and cream.
NB I find this soup is best eaten fresh. Whilst I have frozen some, unlike soup such as Minestrone, it does not taste better with warming up.
* The health information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes only. It is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis provided by your medical or other health professional. Do not use this information to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or health condition. If you have, or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your physician or health care provider.
In my latest blog on the wisdom goddesses of yoga I introduce Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance. If you would like to read about the background on invoking wisdom goddesses in yoga, please go to my blog on Kali.
In this blog, I introduce Lakshmi:
describe her qualities; where we can see her in our lives, her boons and why we invoke her.
unpack the mythology in her imagery, including the symbology of her 4 arms (Dharma, Artha, Kama Moksha) as a model of human and spiritual evolution.
share some personal stories of how she has been a nourishing medicine for me and for one of my students.
give you 7-practices to awaken and embody Lakshmi’s qualities in your life.
Lakshmi’s qualities and how to invoke them
Lakshmi represents abundance in all forms – abundant beauty in the inner and the outer world. In mythology Lakshmi incarnates all of the qualities of the auspicious feminine. One of her names Shri (pronounced Shree) which means auspiciousness and signifies good fortune, loving kindness, purity of motive, material prosperity, physical health, wellbeing, energy, vitality and every kind of radiance and beauty (Kempton, 2013).
We see Lakshmi in our lives in all forms of wealth including material and spiritual wealth. As material wealth, when Lakshmi’s energy is flowing in your life, money comes easily as well as it flows out generously to others. Lakshmi can be seen in precious jewels, in beautifully crafted objects, art and elegant fashion and delicious food as well as sweet music.
Lakshmi can be found in the abundance of the natural world. The abundance of mother earth: the land the water, the plants and animals. She is the benevolent force that causes the seed to grow into a tree, the sperm to fertilise the egg and flowers to fruit. Her power nourishes life on earth. She is a goddess of sustainability. It is said that Lakshmi shows up for those who are stewards of the land, cultivators of the earth. If we provide and care for all the Life around us, then Lakshmi will bless us with abundance
When we embody Lakshmi, we have everything, both inner and outer, for a beautiful life. Lakshmi is invoked for peace and prosperity, sweetness and harmony. When you call her into your life, you invite every form of blessing. Good fortune, fertility and beauty.
Lakshmi gives the gifts of worldly abundance, wealth, food, high social position, spiritual luster, beauty in all its form (Kempton, 2013)
You can invoke Lakshmi to cultivate all forms of abundance in life including:
support in the worldly life, including money and material wealth
bridging the mundane and spiritual worlds
greater health, wellbeing and vitality
gratitude and being content with what you have
allowing yourself to receive and also to give generously
beauty and pleasure in life
opening your heart.
Lakshmi’s Shakti is cooling and nourishing, infinitely sweet. I find that Lakshmi, along with her sister goddess Tripuri Sundari, can be a beautiful balance to the more fiery energy of Kali and Durga.
Lakshmi can put an end to outer seeking, instead spend our precious energy on the evolution and unfolding of ourselves and the universe. Lakshmi (and Kalamalitka in particular) offers us a bridge between the material and spiritual worlds. She nourishes and supports whatever we aspire to. She is Divine grace for our spiritual and worldly goals.
The Mythology of Lakshmi
Mythology, and the stories of these goddesses, can be a powerful map of understanding ourselves as well as universal patterns. One tool is to understand the symbology of the icon/image. One powerful Tantric embodiment practice is visualise ourselves as the god or goddess and so we can examine in detail and attempt to get a ‘felt sense’ of the image and the symbols commonly associated with Lakshmi we can embody her abundance.
When we look at a mythological image we look to everything in image including the character and the objects are aspects of our Self. Chameli Ardah points out it is important to remember that mythology is not a fixed theory, rather it is a the map that is alive in you as you, around you and right now in every moment.
Below is a summary of some of the more common interpretations of Lakshmi’s image.
Lakshmi is depicted as a beautiful woman of golden complexion, standing gracefully on a lotus flower. She is dressed in red, which represents continuous creative activity. She is adorned with gold ornaments and jewels, indicating prosperity and fulfilment.
Her animal consort is the elephant or sometimes she is pictured with an owl. Elephants and owls both represent wisdom.
Two elephants are often shown standing next to the goddess and spraying water. A symbol that ceaseless effort, in accordance with one’s dharma and governed by wisdom and purity, leads to material and spiritual prosperity.
An owl, as a night bird represents darkness, which can represent Lakshmi’s ability to remove darkness from our lives, including poverty and stagnation. The owl can also point to the shadow aspects of material wealth. At a personal level greed and ignorance and at a societal, humanity level, how the current imbalances in the larger financial/economic system are not sustainable.
She has 4 arms. In two of them she holds lotus flowers. Her third hand is lowered, palm down, with cascading gold coins. Her fourth hand is held upright, in abhaya mudra, an ancient gesture that dispels fear.
The continuous stream of gold coins pouring out from Lakshmi’s hand representing the unending flow of abundant prosperity and wealth in all forms, including material wealth and money.
The Lotus flower is also a prominent and powerful symbol for Lakshmi. The Tantric equivalent of Lakshmi’s is called Kamalatmika, (kamala = lotus).
Lakshmi sits on a lotus flower that emerges out of the lake, as well as holds two in her hands, sometimes one closed and one open. The lotus flower can represent purity, fertility and inner unfolding. The lotus is also a symbol of growth and spiritual transformation. The lotus flower grows from the shadow, muddy water. It roots itself in the mud and then grows up, through the murky, stagnant waters toward the light and blossoms into perfection.
Four Arms as a Map of Human Evolution
Lakshmi’s four arms symbolise different aspects of manifestation. They can offer us a framework to understand spiritual development and human embodiment.
Dharma: ‘righteous’ living your unique vibration
Artha: worldy and spiritual wealth
Kama: pleasure as a spiritual portal
Moksha – liberation and freedom.
The 4 arms are a part of her body, they are not separate. Each ‘arm’ is equally important and a part of the whole. In our practice we can tune into these 4 arms and identify which aspect of our life is needing more conscious awareness and practice, at any point in our evolutionary growth.
Below I provide a brief overview of each of these arms. I share more on these arms and specific yoga practices, in my Tantra Flow Yoga workshops and transition coaching programs.
Dharma: ‘righteous’ living your unique vibration
Dharma is the law of the universe. It is the righteous order of ALL things. In the personal realm, righteous living can be seen as the alignment to our unique vibration, our unique dharma, and the alignment of this vibration with the larger vibration of the universe.
We each have a unique place in the world: a unique thread in the grand scheme of life. It shows that we are each unique, but not separate.
The practice is to align ourselves with our unique vibration – your unique Shri. The closer we can come to this vibration the more fulfilled we will be. We experience genuine fulfilment when living true to our dharma. When our unique gifts are aligned with the bigger cosmic intelligence we not only find our unique place in the whole, but you also receive great support from the universe (see Artha below).
This does not mean your life is wholly pre-destined or pre-determined. Instead, we are born with an imprint, and then our life experiences and circumstances influence and mould us. We are continuously moving and evolving.
Recently, I have noticed that dharma is increasingly used by yoga teacher career coaches in their branding and marketing of coaching offerings. dharma can offer us a meaningful way to make decisions about our work and career. It is important to remember that dharma is more than a job, as dharma is expressed in all areas of our lives.
I see so much suffering in the world when people are not aware or are misaligned with their dharma. Many are caught up in a material world of consumerism. I know I was for many years working in the city in corporate role that felt like it often clashed with my deeper values and beliefs.
“It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma. But competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity.” Krishna from The Bhagavad Gita
The more aware of, and the more aligned I am, and the more conscious and connected I am to my dharma, the happier and easier life becomes. It is one of my deepest passions, that more people (including myself!) live life according to their dharma.
Artha: worldly and spiritual wealth
Artha is the resources we need to fulfill our dharma. Artha is most commonly associated with wealth. Currently in our western and ever developing world, Artha is most visible as money. Artha is far more than just money. It includes all aspects of physical, emotional and spiritual wealth, health and wellbeing. It includes the skills, physical well-being and circumstances that will support you to live your dharma.
Most, if not all of us, are bound to a large extent to live and operate in the current systems and processes that require us to have money to live a good life. For example we need a home to live in, we need to pay rent or a mortgage. We need nourishing food for a healthy functioning body. More and more of us are now choosing to buy organic food, which is often more expensive. Increasingly we need money to pay for good health care, particularly so here in Australia if you choose preventative or natural medicine. It costs money to live a good healthy life.
Many of us have a shadowy relationship with money. Money can reflect beliefs about our inherent value; our self-worth. For many of us these can be Self-limiting beliefs. It is important that we become conscious of these beliefs and to clear up issues we have with money, so that we can have a freer and more creative relationship with ‘wealth’.
I know so many women and men who feel trapped in work and lifestyles that are not fulfilling and that it is because of money that they do not feel free to be doing more of what they love to do.
Through working with Lakshmi’s dharma and artha arms, we can be guide and supported to find greater alignment to our true Self and to open to universal abundance, in all its forms.
Kama: pleasure as spiritual portal
Kama is pleasure, love, sensuality, desire, beauty. Kama is very much alive, particularly in recent years with the upsurge in divine feminine embodiment practices and teachers that are available to us now.
In the recent past, patriarchal religions including many eastern yoga schools, have created systems and practices to suppress and repress kama, so that we can be free (see moksha below). Many of these approaches see pleasure and sensuality as a distraction, and that we need to cultivate detachment from the ‘material’ to cultivate spirituality. I love it how Chameli Ardagh reminds us that “You are never free if you have to continually push something away!”
The kama arm shows us that a spiritual path does not have to be dry and that in fact pleasure, desire and beauty can be a powerful spiritual portal to Shri. Lakshmi shows us that not only do we not have to reject ordinary experience, including a sensuous pleasurable life, but that the material life can offer us a portal to the inside offering worldly enjoyment and spiritual freedom.
Lakshmi is the keeper and beautifier of mundane life. She shows us that cultivating an aesthetic life is a spiritual practice. She can awaken pleasure and desire. Chameli Ardagh describes desire as spiritual heat, that with conscious practice, becomes a portal of awakening. Pleasure can be a doorway to Presence. Our senses open us…they feed us… they nourish us.
Moksha: Liberation and Freedom
Moksha is the freedom from the small ‘I’ to the greater scheme of things. It is the ability to see all experiences as a part of the bigger tapestry of life. To do this we need to let go of control. We need to slip into the slip-stream of life. When we do this, we can align ourselves with the collective evolution. This can provide tremendous support and creativity.
We can sometimes fear to let go – to trust. We can be afraid of the void. Lakshmi helps us relax the grip on trying to control everything and instead offers faith so we can surrender into infinite abundance. Chameli Ardagh describes when we align with the evolution of dharma, and slip into the outpouring of creativity and resources, we can manifest anything we dream of!
Lakshmi’s shadow can often arise when we get tastes of how good it can be, and we get attached to these moments of Artha.
“Moksha is not a process in time, nor is it an experience you once had, or a goal for your to reach later. We live Moksha in moment-to-moment surrender”. Chameli Ardagh.
Personal Stories and Experiences of Lakshmi’s energy
Below are some personal experiences of how Lakshmi has shown up in my life over the recent years as well Laura, one of my students.
My first experience with Lakshmi
I first met and experienced Lakshmi energy at my yoga teacher training in Bali in 2014. I experienced the most heart opening experience (so far!) in my life. In our last Puja (ritual) for the month-long training, we invoked Goddess Kamalamika/Lakshmi. Together the 20 women on the course brought gifts of abundance to the alter (money, food and presents), with the intention that we would take these to the local primary school children who we had become fondly familiar with over the course of our training as their playground overlooked the yoga studio. We climbed the rocky slope adjacent to the studio to reach the school children whilst singing the Gayatri Mantra. The children sang along with us. We gave the gifts to the children, and they received them with joy and gratitude. One little girl came to me and gave me a big hug. She asked me my name, and I her. She responded Lakshmi… my heart cracked so wide open!
Since then, in my personal practice and through teaching yoga with the wisdom goddesses, I continue to learn, grow and experience the power of these amazing wisdom goddesses. I recently joined a 21-day Lakshmi Sadhana with Chameli Ardagh which opened my life even further to her boons.
I have found that practicing with Lakshmi has helped me transition from my corporate career in the city, to yoga teacher. Her medicine has helped me transition from the secure, and relatively high income, to being self-employed, living in the county on a very low income as a yoga teacher and as a steward of the land.
Financial insecurities and unexpected gifts
There have been times when deep fears arise around my, and my families, financial security. I as many of us do, hold deep fears around money, particularly in relation to self-worth, which are intergenerational, in my case from my mothers blood line. These fears particularly arise when I step forward or take a risk in growing my business or aligning more to my dharma path of teaching yoga and growing a small farmlet. I have experienced Lakshmi many times in unexpected financial windfalls affirming and confirming my dharma.
For example, when I made the bold step to end my contractual tie to my corporate role to fully commit to being a yoga teacher, an unexpected deposit of $7,000 arrived in my bank account from my employer, which helped me pay for training and set up my business.
More recently I was doing a 21-day Lakshmi Sadhana. I experiencing great fears arising as my partner and I embark on the development of our property into the TARA Healing and Education centre. It was feeling like the more we were committing to this large investment there were tests from the universe, including the breaking down of our car, large dentist bill which were testing my confidence in our plans and vision. Daily I was practicing gratitude, asking and letting go (see practice No. 4 below) where I asked for money to support our vision.
Over the next few days I experienced a series financial gifts, including my dentist wavered a $150 bill for my son’s dentistry, and the local bank wavered a $15 fee for issuing a check to buy our new second hand car. Whilst these might seem small, it felt like Lakshmi was present whereby I received powerfully supportive messages assuring me that everything is going to be ok, and that the world will provide for me on my dharmic path.
Daily I experience Lakshmi in my garden in the abundant fruit and vegetables, herbs and flowers. The garden nourishes me and my dharma to continue moving forward to our investment into developing TARA. I will share more stories over the coming year of Lakshmi and the garden.
Early summer posies for alter
Summer light in the back paddock
Laura’s Fertility story
In my Tantra Flow classes and workshops I so love observing women awakening to the different goddess energies and receiving her boons. Laura has been attending Tantra Flow Yoga classes for several years now and has found Lakshmi to be particularly healing through her fertility journey. Lakshmi spoke to Laura in many ways and has been a powerful medicine for her.
Lakshmi Card (Doreen Virtue, 2004)
In one class, Laura felt the Lakshmi energy strongly in her heart which she felt awoke her awareness of the ability to manifest abundance in her life. At the end of the class she drew the Lakshmi goddess card from the Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards (Doreen Virtue, 2004) which was an external reinforcement and reminder of her presence.
After this experience, Laura consciously brought Lakshmi into her life, particularly as the goddess of fertility, as Laura had experienced many difficult years of fertility challenges.
Laura felt that Lakshmi was with her during the IVF process. In the hormonal stimulation process Laura created more eggs than were expected at her age. She felt the abundant life within.
When Laura learnt of Lakshmi’s other name Kamalatmika, she realised she had for years had the image of her tattooed on her back. Previously she had thought of the tattoo as a Thai angel having got the tattoo in Thailand years ago. The Thai script written under her image is ‘Kamla’, the nickname that Laura’s friends gave her. The angel goddess is holding a lotus flower.
It was so incredible to realise that I had Lakshmi tattooed on my back, and that she had been with me for so many years already. She literally has ‘had my back’! Laura
Lakshmi has been there to support Laura in times where she needed to believe in her fertility to create a child. She surrounded herself with beautiful, loving wise women to be held and supported through the journey. When she and her partner where offered the donor embryo option, she knew this could be another arduous journey, with stress, difficulties and long waiting periods. Miraculously out of the blue, an old friend contacted her to offer them an embryo. She was so moved by the hope of new genetics and the loving kind generosity from her friend. It felt like an unexpected abundant gift, that came with grace and ease from the universe.
“It felt like a precious gift – a chance of bearing a child” Laura
Although it has unfolded that Laura has not had children, she feels the journey has been so much smoother to feel guided and supported by Lakshmi. Laura describes that even without her ultimate dream coming true, her life is filled with abundance in so many other ways.
7 Practices to invoke Lakshmi in your life
I would encourage you, if you are feeling drawn to Lakshmi energy, to practice with 1 or more of the practices I share below. I also include a few tips on how to establish a devotional home yoga practice.
Decide on how much time you have in a week or in a day to dedicate yourself for a set period of time e.g. 5 minutes a day every day for the next month or choose the time and length that suits your schedule and life.
One tip is that practicing with the goddesses, as it is with any yoga or health practice, a little + often = a lot
Even if you only have 5-10 minutes a day, choose one practice, and then show up for your set period of time.
In my experience I have found that having a devotional feminine yoga practice it has been easy and a delight and that rather than being drudgery or a chore, you will probably find you want to spend more time with your practice. Especially with Lakshmi!
1. Flowing vinyasa asana practice
Practice a flowing vinyasa, with the intention to opening to the flow of bliss and receiving and gifting abundance. Include heart opening postures as well as any feminine practices that awaken pleasure. Play music you love to inspire your flowing movement, and music that opens your heart to joy. Here is a playlist with some Lakshmi music including Kirtan chants to awaken Lakshmi in your practice.
If you would like to learn some specific yoga and tantric yoga practices for your yoga practice, please check out one of my workshops or if you live locally weekly yoga courses.
2. Clear, clean and create an alter in the home
Lakshmi is seen in the cleanliness and order of a home. Spend some time clearing out old or unused items. Ask your Self does this give me Joy? If not, give it away to a charity/good will shop for someone else to choose and enjoy.
Once the space is clear and clean, bring in fresh flowers and light a candle. You can also set an intention of inviting Lakshmi into your house.
Create an Alter. It could be small, or more elaborate. Make it a space that you are drawn to daily, spending some quiet time connecting to your Self. Make offerings (flowers, gifts etc) and do some of the other practices listed here, yoga, meditation, poetry etc.
3. Meditation: cultivating receiving and giving
This meditation is adapted from Meditation secrets for women (Camille Maurine and Lorin Roche, 2001).
Begin by bringing your awareness to your breath.
Breath in – cultivate the feeling of receiving.
Breath out – cultivate the feeling of giving
Continue for a few moments. Once you have established a connection to the breath, and the feelings associated with receiving and giving, repeat the following quietly to yourself:
On the first breath: breath in, I receive breath, exhale:,I give breath.
On the second breath: breath in, I receive life, exhale, I give life
On the third breath: breath in, I receive love, exhale, I give love
4. Practice of gratitude, asking and letting go
Adapted from Chameli Ardagh’s 21-day Lakshmi Sadhana.
Bring your awareness to all that you are grateful for
Open your heart in gratitude and say your thanks either aloud, or speak quietly within.
Ask for what you desire – that which your heart longs for. Ask with innocence, like a child
Put your desire and longing into words. Speak out loud or within, or whisper softly to yourself
Release your prayers
Open your hands as if you are letting them go. You can make a hand gesture, of opening your hands and releasing your request into space around you
Whisper, or gently speak out loud: “I surrender, I give it to you”
And then imagine handing it all over to the universe, letting go of any expectation!
5: The practice of giving generously
When we fear or feel a lack of anything in our lives (e.g. money, friends, love) we can go into contraction which cuts us off from the flow of abundance from the universe.
One of the simplest ways to shift his energy is to share and be generous with what you have. For example, to share with those less fortunate than us, particularly those who are suffering in the material world. Also share your unique gifts to the world and observe the abundance that can come in response.
“In order to attract Lakshmi, to bring her grace into our life, we need to become Lakshmi” (Kempton, 2013)
6: Cultivating beauty in your life – a garden sense meditation
Notice beauty in your life. Seek out and cultivate beauty through nature, arts and music etc. Remind yourself as you open to the external beauty, that the outer is a reflection of the inner beauty that resides in the heart.
A garden is a wonderful place to invoke Lakshmi. Visit a garden, maybe your own garden, at the peak of its production. Spend some time opening your senses to the abundance in the garden: the fruit, the vegetables, the flowers, the birds and insects etc. Start with the following:
Smell the intoxicating fragrance of the flowers
See the vibrant colours in the flowers, the leaves. Notice the changes over the seasons
Taste the fresh fruits or vegetables, the bitterness of leafy greens, the sweetness of the berries etc
Listen to the sounds, the birds, to the wind rustling through trees.
Feel the warmth of the sun, or the gentle breeze
As you practice with the 5 senses, begin to notice and sense the subtle vibration of Shri and the pure abundance which is everywhere
Spend some time reading your favourite poetry, or find some new inspiring and beautiful poetry.
Rumi’s poetry can be wonderful for awakening Lakshmi:
“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground” (Rumi, Spring Giddiness, 13th Century)
Another favourite of mine is Lorin Roche’s Radiance Sutra poetry, which I find to be so nourishing and awakening of the senses.
Radiance Sutra 42,
With one sweep of attention, gather in the whole universe, and remember it as the body of bliss.
The deep rhythms of life, pulsating. Stir an ambrosia. Flowing and overflowing everywhere.
Drink the Nectar of all-pervading joy from the radiant cup that is this very body
Roche, L (2014) The Radiance Sutras: 112 gateways to the yoga of wonder and delight. Sounds True: Bolder Colorado.
Taylor, L (2014) Notes from Sacred Journey into Yoga Teacher Training. For More information go to Lorraine Taylor Yoga for her 200 hour Sacred Journey into Yoga for Women, a month long ashtanga vinyasa yoga teacher training journeying with the Ten Mahavidya Goddesses.
With the abundance of broad beans this spring and early summer we are eating a range of yummy recipes most days. We freeze and dry the excess, to then use throughout the year in a range of recipes, especially when there is a shortage of fresh vegetables from the garden. The dried beans we use in Felafels as Fava beans. The frozen beans we use as we would fresh broad beans, in frittatas, curries and as a lovely addition to plain kicharee. With the double podded beans, we use as a side vegetable instead of needing to purchase frozen peas.
Warm Broad Bean Salad
Simple dressing with 2/3 Olive oil and 1/3 lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook broad beans in boiling salt water for 2-4 minutes, depending on size i.e. the smaller they are, the less cooking they need. Run under cold water to stop the cooking. Add the remaining ingredients and serve immediately.
Smashed Broad Beans
(Adapted from Stephanie Alexander, Stefano’s Smashed Broad Beans, the Kitchen Garden Companion, 2009)
Double podded broad beans
1 clove of garlic (or more if you like it garlicy)
extra virgin olive oil
Salt (we used our locally harvested Dimboola Pink Salt)
Freshly ground black pepper
Roughly crush broad beans in a mortar and pestle, mix with plenty of grated pecorino cheese, olive oil crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste. .
Freezing broad beans
Blanch (par boil) freshly podded beans for approx. 1 minute, cool under cold running water to stop the cooking process. To minimise clumping together, freeze first on trays for 1 hour, and then put into clip lock bags, to be used as needed throughout the year.
This year for the first time we have frozen some double podded beans to be used throughout the year in the dip, as well as a side sweet green vegetable.
In this season’s Healing Garden blog I give an update of the early summer garden and I share our exciting plans for the creation of the TARA Healing and Education centre here in Taradale.
Recently in Glenn and my ‘tooing and froing’ about whether we will proceed with this significant property development I pulled this Celtic Bean oracle card, symbolising fertility, reincarnation and nourishment: “A project that was buried may be bearing fruit in a un-expected way”.
Broad beans can be an underrated vegetable and yet they are so nutritious. I share with you the abundant properties of the underrated broad bean, as well as some yummy recipes.
The Early Summer Mediterranean Garden
This year was again a busy time in the Spring garden that I didn’t write a spring garden blog for 2017. On our 5.5 acre property our days are filled with what feels like endless weeding and mowing, preparing the garden beds for summer, anticipating the last frost (or what we hope to be the last frost!) and the planting of the masses of summer vegetables.
Now it is December, with the summer heat upon us, the garden is planted out with our heirloom vegetables, including tomatoes, eggplants, chillis, cucumbers, melons, zucchinis, beans, lettuces and Asian greens of many varieties, and of course many culinary herbs including basil, dill, parsley, mint, marjoram, all which add that wonderful touch to all our dishes.
The berries are in full swing. We are currently eating bowls of strawberries each day, and are observing the cane berries exploding from full flower, buzzing with bees, to now forming bunches of huge berries. This year is going to be an outstanding crop, where we are sure we will have excess berries for preserving.
Early Strawberry crop
Our garden provides us with most of the food for our family for the year, with excess going to local food schemes, students, clients and friends. We regularly find ourselves with a ‘glut’ of different produce at different times of the year.
In late spring/early summer there we have an abundance of a fresh greens, lettuces and kale, parsley and coriander as well as purple sprouting broccoli and globe artichokes. These vegetables and herbs coincide with the wood element in TCM, and the Liver/Gallbladder meridians, where greens are a wonderful source of food for natural spring cleansing.
We have just finished our first major asparagus crop, where we enjoyed the unique diggers purple variety ‘Fat Bastard’ (a name that could only be Australian!). We are well on the way to in a few years the bed will have enough asparagus to feed the visitors that attend TARA Healing and Education centre.
The Abundant Broad Bean
We have just harvested an abundant crop of broad beans, which we are eating, preserving and freezing by the bucket load. I believe broad beans are underrated, and yet they are not only highly nutritious, they are easy to grow and provide a wonderful source of nitrogen for the garden beds through their roots – feeding the soil as well as our family!
Broad beans (also known as Fava beans) are an ancient cultivated crop originating from Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region. They are a cool season vegetable that grows well here in Central Victoria. We have been growing the Digger’s heirloom variety that has a beautiful magenta flower providing much beauty in the garden as well as producing a smaller, sweeter bean.
Reading about the health benefits of broad beans has confirmed, yet again to me, home grown food can provide can provide us with so many of the nutrients we need. Broad beans are:
a great source of protein and energy and are a rich source of dietary fibre
rich in antioxidants, vitamins (incl. vitamin-B6, thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin and niacin and minerals (incl. iron, copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium and potassium)
rich in phytonutrients such as isoflavone and plant sterols and contain Levo-dopamine or L-dopa, a precursor of neuro-chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, epinephrine, and nor-epinephrine. In the brain, dopamine is associated with the smooth, coordinated functioning of body movements
Here are some simple broad bean recipes that we have been making. double podded smashed broad beans, simple warm broad bean salad, and preserving freezing.
The birth of TARA Healing and Education Centre
This year has been a significant year of moving forward to transforming our small hobby farm, into the development of TARA Healing and Education Centre.
Currently both Glenn and I travel to many different places to offer our teaching and healing work. Bringing our work to Taradale will enable us to expand our yoga and shiatsu teaching work, and to also include the healing foods and garden into our offerings. The venue will also be available for hire for other like-minded teachers and healers to come and enjoy the beauty of our property and the abundant food we produce.
The vision is to include the:
building of a new eco, Feng Shui designed home for us to live in;
conversion of the existing house into a large teaching and healing studio for workshops and events; and the
creation of accommodation rooms for retreat and B&B and farmstays.
We have gathered around us a wonderful team of professionals. A Feng Shui consultant to ensure the harmonious design of the buildings. A Strategic Planner to help on the Planning Application for local Council. A building designer to bring our eco vision into reality.
The plan is to build the new house in 2018, to open the teaching studio in 2019, and to have accommodation open by 2020. Next year we will launch TARA website as well as a crowd funding campaign. We hope that you will get on board and share this campaign with your family, friends and community. We will be offering many super prizes including yoga and shiatsu workshops, gardening workshops, healing and coaching sessions, fruit and vegetable boxes, garden tours, composting workshops and more!
We are both excited and are enjoying creating the vision. At times huge fears come up, particularly around money, as this will be a significant investment for us. Neither of us have ever embarked on such a large business enterprise. We have received incredibly positive feedback from friends, students, colleagues and clients and we keep hearing and feeling a deep calling to create a beacon for positive change. Also what keeps us moving forward beyond these fears is our passion for the individual and the collective need for a shift in consciousness and with this a quality health and lifestyle education to facilitate change towards living sustainability and ethically.