Dhumavati the Goddess of Peaceful Surrender through Disappointment and Loss

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.

The Ten Mahavidyas

The Ten Mahavidyas Artist Rabi Behera (from http://www.exoticindia.com)

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

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

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, 80 years old

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.

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

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

1. Mantra

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:

Let Go

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.

2 . Meditation: smoking ritual and/or sound meditation

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.

Please note: if you don’t have a yoga nidra practice already, you may like to explore the many free practices on Insight App. I recently found this yoga nidra Healing Darkness for Sleep by Jennifer Piercy, that feels to me like a Dhumavati practice. 

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.

Bibliography

Brown, J (2014) 10 ways to bypass the realElephant Journal  21 March, 2014

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.

 

 

 

Healing Garden Nettle Soup

Why Eat Nettles?

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!

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.

Harvesting nettle

Yummy Nettle Soup

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 50g butter
  • 50ml double cream

Instructions

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.

Bibliography

Balick, MJ (2014) 21st Century Herbal. Rodale.

Weed, S (2002)  http://www.menopause-metamorphosis.com/An_Article-healthy.htm

 

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. 

© 2018 Jane Mallick. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Lakshmi the Goddess of Abundance and Good Fortune

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.

kamala__the_lotus_goddess_pg11Lakshmi 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.

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-10-42-34-am

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.

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

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:

  1. On the first breath:  breath in, I receive breath, exhale:,I give breath.
  2. On the second breath: breath in, I receive life, exhale, I give life
  3. 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.

Gratitude

  • 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

  • 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

Let Go

  • 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:

  1. Smell the intoxicating fragrance of the flowers
  2. See the vibrant colours in the flowers, the leaves. Notice the changes over the seasons
  3. Taste the fresh fruits or vegetables, the bitterness of leafy greens, the sweetness of the berries etc
  4. Listen to the sounds, the birds, to the wind rustling through trees.
  5. Feel the warmth of the sun, or the gentle breeze
  6. As you practice with the 5 senses, begin to notice and sense the subtle vibration of Shri and the pure abundance which is everywhere

7: Poetry

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

(Lorin Roche, 2014)

Bibliography

Agrawal, P (2017) Shocking facts about goddess Lakshmi no on knows.

Ardagh, Chameli. 21 day Lakshmi Sadhana. Awakening Women.

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.

Maurine, C and Roche, L (2001) Meditation secrets for women, discovering your passion, pleasure and inner peace, Harper: San Fransisco.

Rajhans, G (2009) Ma Lakshmi’s symbols explained

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yummy Broad Bean Recipes

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 broad bean salad

Ingredients

  • Broad beans
  • Simple dressing with 2/3 Olive oil and 1/3 lemon juice
  • Mint
  • 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

smashed double poddedbroad 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

frozen 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Early Summer Garden, broad beans and the birth of TARA

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.

celtic bean medicine cardRecently 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.

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.

crimson broad beans

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
  • (when fresh) an excellent source of folates.

Source: https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/broad-beans/

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.

Embodying the Wisdom Goddesses of Yoga

My latest women’s yoga blog introduces the ten Mahavidya Goddesses of Tantra and describes how their powerful archetypal energies can be embodied into our yoga practice and lives, bringing us great boons, including greater Self-awareness, empowerment, creativity, joy and abundance.

As this is my first blog on these deep mystical and profound teachings, it is rather chunky with a lot of the background including:

  • my personal discovery of Goddess archetypes
  • who are the Mahavidya Tantric Wisdom Goddesses and why include them in your yoga practice
  • what is this thing called Tantra?!
  • the importance, particularly at this point in human history, of awakening and empowering the Divine feminine
  • what is shadow and how to embracing the dark and the light

I then cover in more detail the first of the Mahavidya’s – Kali, the Goddess of transformation. I share seven practices for your own home yoga practice.  I also include some personal reflections of working with this powerful Goddess of yoga, from one of my students as well as my own life journey (so far!).

My discovery of Goddess archetypes

I was first introduced to the goddess archetypes in the 90’s through Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Goddesses in Every Women. I discovered how the goddess archetypes, in this case the Greek Goddesses, can represent energies in our lives. I loved how the mythical symbolic realm played out in the synchronous weaving of my conscious and unconscious worlds, bringing me greater awareness and significant healing and growth.

Tara: Goddess of Compassion

Tara, the Goddess of compassion

More recently I have had the delight to discover the eastern goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, initially through Sally Kempton book Awakening Shakti and then in my yoga teacher training Sacred Journey into Yoga with Lorraine Taylor. I learnt that through the practice of yoga we can embody the wisdom of the Tantric Mahavidya Goddesses. I have found that practicing with these goddesses can lead to profound healing, transformation and awakening. I was so inspired by these teachings that I now include them in my own devotional home yoga practice as well as my Tantra Flow Yoga classes and workshops.

What is Tantra?

Kandariya Mahadev Temple

Kandariya Mahadev Temple

Most people in the west when they think of Tantra think sex! Whilst Tantra does embrace sex (unlike, in my experience, most religions and yoga traditions) it is only a small proportion of what it is.

There are many translations of the Sanskrit word Tantra. One common definition is: Tan: ‘to expand or develop’; tra: ’to liberate or redeem’. This definition embraces my personal experience of Tantra as an art and practice of transformation and liberation.

A core feature of Tantra is the principle of non-rejection, where nothing is considered outside of the Divine. Another meaning of Tantra is ‘weaving’. Tantra embraces the world as a tapestry of energies, all of them aspects of the energy of the Divine, and all of them sacred. Thus Tantra can be a powerful path for ‘householders’ looking for a path that merges spirituality with life in the ‘real’ world.

One of the unique aspects of Tantra is how it recognises, acknowledges and embraces the power of the Divine feminine. Goddess practices are a key means of doing this. Tantra perceives the Divine feminine as the source of power, life force – Shakti in contrast to the Divine masculine – Shiva, which is consciousness.

Tantra offers us a framework to understand the energy and the dance between the Divine feminine and masculine, both within our bodies and lives and with others in relationship. Tantra also helps take us beyond the limitations of the duality of gender, whereby men and women can embrace both the Divine feminine and masculine within their lives.

I believe that there is a great upsurge of Tantra teachings and offerings in the west as we are living in time where we need to heal and reawaken the Divine feminine, in both men and women.

These teachings and my writings, are not limited to women, although this is currently who my classes and workshops serve as there are many women in need of a safe space to heal and awaken the Divine feminine.

Who are the Mahavidya Wisdom Goddesses?

The Mahavidyas are a special group of goddesses that arose in certain Tantric circles in the Middle Ages in South Asia. These Deities represent Divine consciousness at all levels of the universe, including our inner and outer worlds, as energies in culture, body and mind. They include 10 goddesses, who each represent a particular approach to self-realisation.

The Mahavidya Wisdom Goddesses are known, respected and in some cases feared, for their wild, independent, liberated, sexually empowered and autonomous expressions of consciousness (Frawley, 1994)

Below is a list of their Tantric names and some key aspects of each goddess. For some of the more commonly known goddess I also include the more commonly known Hindu goddess names.

  • Kali: the Goddess of transformation and liberation. Later in this blog, as I describe in more detail Kali, the first of the Mahavidya’s, including 7 yoga practices to support change and freedom.
  • Tara: the Goddess of compassion, sound and breath
  • Tripuri Sundari: the beauty of the ‘three worlds’, pure perception, and the Goddess of erotic spirituality
  • Bhuvaneshvari: the Goddess of infinite space; the queen of the universe
  • Bhairavi (Durga): the warrior Goddess of protection, courage and inner strength
  • Chinnamasta: the Goddess of radical self-transcendence, consciousness beyond the mind
  • Dhumavati: the crone Goddess of disappointment and letting go
  • Bagalamukhi: the power of hypnotic silence and stillness, self-observation
  • Matangi (Saraswati): the Goddess of creativity and the spoken word
  • Kamalatmika (Lakshmi): the Goddess of abundance and good fortune, including material and spiritual wealth

Whilst the 10 Mahavidya’s are traditionally listed in the above order, Uma Dinsmore-Tuli (2014) discusses how these Goddesses energies are cyclical, and can shed light on and support the different life stages of a woman life. For example, Tripuri Sundari celebrating Menarche, Bhuvaneshvari supporting pregnancy and birth, Bharavi embracing our power, and Dhumervati welcoming the wisdom years.

Whilst all of the goddesses are always present as a part of our energy fields, some are more familiar to us, some less, and some we might not even be aware of, in our ‘shadow’. At different times of our lives different goddess energies can awaken and bring their gifts or boons to you.

Shadow: embracing the dark and the light

The shadow, is the unknown ‘’dark side’ of our personality. Dark because it tends to consist of negative, primitive, socially or religiously depreciated emotions and impulses, including sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage. These aspects of ourselves are often obscured from consciousness.

Essentially everything about ourselves that we are not conscious of is shadow. Aspects which we don’t like about ourselves, pains and traumas that are buried. It can also the hidden potentials, that may have been or not nurtured, or even actively suppressed, in our childhood.

Jung saw that the failure to recognise, acknowledge and deal with our shadow is often the root of problems for individuals as well as within groups, organisations and society as a whole. Therefore any healing, growth and self-realisation work needs to include the incorporation of our shadow natures.

Becoming familiar with the shadow and integrating the dark’ ‘negative aspects’ of our selves and the ‘positive’ un-lived potential of our higher Self is an essential part of growth and individuation and of becoming more rounded, more whole.

The Goddesses archetypes can help us to explore the hidden aspects of our psyche. Through meeting ALL sides of these Goddess energies we can to embrace and integrate the dark and the light aspects of our Selves.

At a more superficial layer of Goddess practice, we can be tempted by the allure of the qualities of the different Goddesses such as bliss, wealth and power. Whilst Goddess practice can be approached to gain health, wealth, fame of other more ordinary goals in life, it is important that we are aware of any selfish or egotistical intentions.

Anyone working with these archetypal energies, need to remain cognisant of the shadow aspects of these Goddesses – each have within them deeper layers and energies that we need to be be willing to open to. It is the integration of the shadow and the light of these goddesses offer greater freedom and liberation.

There are specific shadow practices for each particular Goddess. As a general invocation I find it helpful to set an intention to open to the wisdom and teachings from the Goddess for the greatest good of my highest self and the greatest good of others.

Why include the Goddesses archetypes in a yoga practice?

Gods and Goddesses are ‘real’ in that they exist in eternal forms of energy in the subtlest realms of consciousness. Within the human psyche, these beings exist as psychological archetypes.

An archetype is a subtle blueprint that both transcends individual personality and lives in it, connecting our personal minds to the cosmic or collective mind. (Kempton, 2013)

The Goddesses can personify energies that we feel but may never have thought to name both in our selves and in our worlds. They offer a powerful means of understanding the capacities of our own psyche as well as the world around us. And by actively practicing with the goddesses, we are in effect, working to bring parts of our psyches/Selves into consciousness.

Yoga practice with the Goddess is a form of Self-inquiry, a means of acquiring knowledge. Practicing yoga with these Goddesses help us embody the subtlest power of the universe which can affect us psychologically, spiritually and physically, and collectively.

Deity meditation has powerful psychological benefits. When a practitioner invokes these Goddess energy through asana, meditation, visualisation, mantra we can uncover psychological forces that can transform and awaken. It can help unlock psychological blocks, including issues with power or love. Invoking the appropriate Shakti, as represented by the ten Goddesses, can open up, heal or transform stuck energies.

As a spiritual practice, it opens up transpersonal forces within your mind and heart. Practicing with these Goddesses gives us direct connection to an inner life force that can powerfully transform consciousness itself.

The transformative power of the Goddess energies can untangle psychic knots, calling forth specific transformative forces within the mind and heart. It can cleanse our mental and emotional bodies, put us in touch with the protective powers within us, and deeply change the way we see the world. It can shift the way we see ourselves, giving us the power to see the Divine qualities we already hold (Kempton, 2013)

Kali the Goddess of Transformation

The ‘Kali Chop’, Tantra Flow Yoga workshop, Seven Sisters 2017

Including the Goddesses in asana practice has the added benefit of embodying these energies. Women’s health and vitality is very much governed by our cycles, our monthly menstrual cycles, the moon as well as our life cycles, of Maiden, Mother, Maga and Crone.  Yoga when practiced with these Divine archetypal energies honours the changes in our cycles, calling us to be more present in our womanly bodies, and in my experience has brought a whole new dimension to yoga.

Collectively, we live in a time where there is a great need for the re-emergence of the Divine feminine. Goddesses come alive when they are invoked and worshiped. Human consciousness and imagination are so powerfully creative, our attention to these forms can have a powerful effect on our own life experience, and can also affect collective consciousness.

Awakening and Empowering the Divine Feminine

These Goddesses offer us great wisdom for our current times. Many of us can feel disempowered by the current structures, governments and systems.

Many contemporary writers have pointed out that our survival as a species may depend on our ability to re-engage with the feminine (Sally Kempton, 2013). And that despite women (particularly in the modern world) enjoying more freedoms and opportunities than in the past, very few of us actually live from our intrinsic feminine strength and intelligence.

Goddess practice is a form of sacred feminism. In contrast to political feminism, sacred feminism it is a feminism for the soul. In the west we are used to seeing the feminine as essentially receptive… even passive. The wisdom Goddesses offer us a much wider and more diverse (and even radical) spectrum of feminine possibility. Sacred feminism looks at true feminine power. It embraces everything that is beautiful in the feminine, as well as everything that is terrifying.

Tantric sages have always seen, respected and revered, the power of the feminine. In Tantra, the feminine is the life force, the Shakti, behind all evolution and change.

I have personally found that practicing yoga with these Divine feminine energies has been deeply healing and empowering, awakening my innate and fuller range of feminine qualities.

Goddess practices are not merely an adulation of feminine forms or qualities. It may start with the image of the Goddess, but reaches far beyond the limits of name, form, and personality to the impersonal, the Absolute (Frawley, 1994)

Personal reflections of practicing with the goddesses

One way to demonstrate the power of practicing with these goddesses is through personal stories and experiences. In this blog, as I cover Kali in more detail, I thought I would share with you a couple of personal Kali stories from myself and one of my students.

Over the 4 years of practicing and teaching with these Goddesses I have experienced many times over Kali’s power of transformation and liberation. Kali has certainly been a Goddess of my 40’s! (which I have observed can be for many women during peri-menopause).  Practicing with Kali has helped me through my (multiple!) midlife crises including my and my families health, relationship and career crises. I have experienced profound transformation on many levels including a transformation in career identity from working in leadership change roles in the corporate work world to now teaching yoga.

A couple of years ago, on a full moon night, I held a bonfire ritual in my back paddock where I burned four large boxes of documents that I had been holding onto from my last job as a change manager in the state education department. This role was the final undoing of me and my health and a dramatic and traumatic end of my working for big organisations.

I felt it was time to let it go of these physical boxes, and my intention through the ritual was to burn the documents, and transform them into something new. I held a lot of grief, shame, regret and confusion (and attachment) to this work, and was lost (confused and angry) as to how all the hard work, both in the job and all my years of study and qualifications, was a waste of time. I needed help to transform my passion and vision for change in organisations into my world now as a yoga teacher.

burning the past away

Kali full moon ritual, Taradale 2015

So I burned it all, bit by bit, calling on Kali and her power to let go and transform. The papers took 2 days to burn, as a researcher there was a lot of dense reports and data! My dog joined me by the fire. I recall him barking ferociously around the perimeters of our property, which is unusual, as he is such a friendly happy dog. It felt like a powerful ceremony.

A week later, possibly unrelated, however powerfully related in my world and change process, the State government began a corruption inquiry into this department. After 6 long weeks, the inquiry found two of the leaders who I had worked for and with, had been stealing millions of dollars from state schools system for their own and their families gains. This inquiry is ongoing as the ‘corruption’ runs far deeper and wider in the culture of the system than these two individuals. This ritual and the subsequent unfolding of the Truth of what my change ‘role’ was up against, was incredibly liberating for me and a turning point for me in letting go of my identity in these roles and moving more fully into yoga teaching.

Kellie one of my students, works in a role in the not-for-profit women’s health sector. She recently shared with me that upon hearing that there was additional funding to continue her contract, whilst her colleagues were all relieved and happy, she noticed and felt she was not overjoyed. By listening more deeply, she recognised her Kali energy. As a young working mum, with little time for her own creative pursuits, she actually wanted more time to follow her creative path of writing. Through listening to this energy, she negotiated with her workplace a reduction in her working hours, giving her more time to follow her love and passion of writing.

Kali: the Goddess of transformation

Kali card

Doreen Virtue, Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards

Kali as the Goddess of transformation is strong, dynamic and powerful. She is a Goddess of revolution, of rebirth and teaches us in order to bring about the ‘new’ we must first let go of the ‘old’.

Her great power is the power that comes with acceptance and change, and the willingness to let go in order to grow. Her gift is in the dissolution of outworn structures, be they ego, thought, or relationships.

Kali is death. She is the ending of the inessentials, that which no longer serves us. In this way, Kali brings about freedom.

Kali - Sangjay14

Kali Maa, Sanjay14

She is often referred to as the black Goddess: dark, destructive and unpredictable, and so is feared my many.  Frawley (1994) describes Kali as dark blue in colour, wearing a garland of skulls. She has her tongue sicking out and is laughing. She has four arms and hands, and in one she holds a sword and another a severed head dripping with blood.  With her other two hands she makes mudras of bestowing boons and dispelling fears.

The severed head represents the cutting away the ego and her tongue represents the power of yogic will to eat up desires and throughs so that our essential Self and awareness can reveal itself.

Kali is also the benevolent loving mother, the Divine mother Ma. She embodies Mother Nature, the goddess of life, death, transformation, destruction, endings and beginnings.

The literal meaning of Kali is time. Time is the power of change that forces all living things to grow and develop.  Kali teaches us that if we give up our attachment to the events of our lives, we gain mastery over time itself. When we drop the limitations of who we think we are, we can experience limitless potential of what we can become.

Kali also offers us a doorway into our wild passionate energy. Embodying her in our yoga practice and meditations assists to awaken our kundalini energy.

Kundalini shakti, the secret yogic power of transformation within us, works through Kali’s grace and motivation. Kundalini ascends and dissolves all the chakras, or energy centres within us, back into the state of pure unity consciousness that is Ma Kali’s ultimate abode. (Frawley, 2016)

An emotion commonly associated with Kali, is Anger. As anger can be a difficult emotion, particularly for women to embrace and express. I have found the Kali practice to be a wonderful support to access  and express the emotion of anger.  I recommend this TED talk the Fierce Face of the Feminine, by Chameli Ardagh to my students, for her passionate sharing of myths and contemporary stories of Kali (approx 18 minutes). Showing us that anger is not a ‘bad’ emotion, and how Kali can help us embody the power, beauty and necessity of feminine rage.

You can recognise Kali in sudden changes in life, especially those that involve disruption. Kundalini awakening is also very ‘Kali’. She is represented by storms including lightening, tornados, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions  I have noticed that in the week that I teach a Kali yoga class there are often local lightening storms. I have also found that when we open to these Goddess energies we start to see them everywhere. I love hearing my students experiences, and hope to share more of these through my writing.

On a bigger picture, some contemporary writers suggest we are living in a time of Kali.

Kali is the Yuga Shakti or the power of time that takes humanity from one world age to another. She works to sustain the spiritual energy of the planet through both the ages of light and darkness (Shambhavi Chopra, 2007)

As the transforming power of time, she can usher us into a new era of global peace and understanding.

Seven Yoga Practices to awaken and embody Kali

  1. Set an intention before you begin your yoga practice. Think of an area of your life where you are stuck, you need to change, let go of or move on from something. Consciously invite Kali into your practice. It can be helpful to visualise an image of her, or visualise a fire or flame.
  2. A helpful Pranayama to include is the lion’s pose / simhasana, where you can feel into the embodied sensations of Kali’s tongue. For instructions of this general pranayama practice go to yogajournal. You can also practice this in vajrasana or rock pose, sitting on your heals.
  3. To invoke Kali into your asana practice, adopt a more vigorous ‘fiery’ vinyasa flow, compared with the more gentler Goddesses. She can be a wonderful Goddess to move with as she teaches us to release constriction and stuckness, blockages and any suppressed emotions.
  4. Practice with some devotional or kirtan music. Here is a suggested Kali Yoga play list. If you like the music, please follow, share and support these musicians.
  5. In Savasana (as well as before going to sleep at night) you can practice deep surrender to the end of your yoga practice/the end of the day. Empty your mind, embracing endings/‘death’, as if it is your last day. To die each day is Kali’s daily worship, allowing for the birth of each new day as the first.
  6. When practicing with Kali, it is important to be aware of Kali’s shadow. Anger can be a common emotion for Kali, and as many of us have grown up in society that does not embrace healthy anger, we can often see it presenting in Kali’s shadow. Shadowy Kali anger can be passive aggressive patterns in your life, both in your self and in others around you. If you are angry, notice if you are projecting it out into the world, onto others, or circumstances, and instead, try to bring the energy of anger inwards for inner transformation and clarity.
  7. Puja fire ceremony can be conducted ideally with a fire. You can also substitute with a candle or visualisation of a fire.  Write down or verbalise some personal qualities that you are wanting to let go of and visualise yourself physically throwing these into the fire. Imagine Kali dancing in the flames, receiving what you are letting go of, invoking transformation.
Autumnal fires - buring away the old

Kali Fire, Taradale 2015. 

Bibliography

Sally Kempton (2013) Awakening Shakti: the Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga. Sounds True.

David Frawley (1994) Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses. Lotus Press.

David Frawley (2016)  http://www.dailyo.in/arts/hindu-mythology-goddess-kali-shiva-hinduism-yoga-spirituality/story/1/9920.html

Shambhavi Chopra (2007) Yogic Secrets of the Dark Goddess: Lightning Dance of the Supreme Shakti, Wisdom Tree Books.

Uma Dinsmore-Tuli (2014) Yoni Shakti: A woman’s guide to power and freedom through yoga and tantra. Yoga Words.

Lorraine Taylor (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.

 

Warm Woolly Wrap

Knitting can be a wonderful meditation practice, particularly in the the colder months where we spend more time indoors. Here I share with you a simple knitting pattern for my much worn (and loved!) Warm Woolly Wrap.

This is an easy pattern, suitable for the beginner and experienced knitters. The repetitive rows, back and forward, can help facilitate a calmer meditative state and when finished, it makes a wonderful shawl to wear for yoga and mediation.  It is a really versatile layer to help adjust changing body temperatures during menopause hot flushes/flashes!

All you will need is:

  • 1 pair 7.00 mm knitting needles
  • 8 balls of a chunky 12 ply yarn

Before you start the project, create a gauge. Cast on 13 stitches and knit 17 rows in stocking stitch to create a square of 10 cm x 10cm. Adjust the needle size to obtain the correct gauge i.e. if it is larger, use smaller needles; if it is smaller, use larger needles.

You are now ready to start the wrap.

Cast on 80 stitches.

1st Row: (right side) Knit

2nd Row: Purl

Repeat 1st and 2nd rows until work measures 140cm from the beginning.

Cast off loosely, keeping yarn attached at the last stitch.

Pick up 80 stitches, with the right side facing you, from cast off point, along the longer side of the rectangle.  Turn, Purl.

Continue in stocking stitch until the piece measures 80cm from the picked up stitches.

Cast off loosely.

You can use a lovely broach to hold it in place or just drape the wrap loosely around your body.