Five years in the past, Lynda opened a yoga studio in an inner-city neighborhood in an enormous east-coast metropolis. A recovering alcoholic, Lynda noticed the studio as her public service, a means to attain out to different younger ladies who may in any other case lead troubled lives. She used donations in addition to cash from her periods with personal shoppers to pay the lease, and she or he marketed free yoga courses for highschool women. Slowly her courses crammed up, typically with women who had no place to go within the afternoon after faculty.
Teaching these weak, skeptical, wounded younger ladies was difficult for Lynda. One night time, after a very robust day, she dreamed of a gorgeous lady mounted on an enormous roaring lion. When she awoke, she realized that the picture she had seen was harking back to Durga, the warrior goddess of Indian mythology. That day, guiding an particularly stressed group of women into the Warrior sequence, she started to inform them about Durga. The women have been entranced. One of them requested Lynda to obtain an image of Durga from the Internet for her. “I want to make a T-shirt,” she stated. “That lady is my hero.”
“When she said that,” Lynda advised me, “I realized that it was true for me, too. The image of Durga has been showing up in my dreams ever since. She’s the image I carry with me when I have to deal with my landlord or handle one of those girls when she’s disrupting the class. In some way, the image of Durga has become a symbol of the strength I need to keep this thing going.”
Lynda shouldn’t be the one yogi I do know who identifies with Durga. The picture of this goddess driving her lion, her eight arms holding weapons and flowers, is perhaps the avatar for empowerment and safety, particularly for ladies. Those of us who juggle households, jobs, and yoga; who step up to help the surroundings; or who journey to storm-torn cities to assist construct housing for displaced households live out a up to date model of the legend of Durga. And for males in addition to ladies, meditation on Durga can convey forth warrior-like power and protecting compassion. When you convey her picture into your internal world, she will empower your most radical aspirations and information you thru your most conflict-ridden life dramas. More than that, Durga embodies the internal energy to rework your self—to let go of addictions, obstacles, and the illusions and fears that maintain you again.
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Bring Goddess Power Into Your Meditation Practice with Durga
You might marvel why, as a up to date yogi, you’d discover it worthwhile to invite the power of mythic beings into your meditation apply. The brief reply is that these archetypal energies are catalysts. Meditating on deities comparable to Durga, Hanuman, Shiva, and Lakshmi can name forth particular powers and qualities inside you. These sacred powers come to you from past your restricted ego and might help you meet challenges, open your coronary heart, and transcend the atypical. For centuries, the Indian and Tibetan Tantric traditions have taught meditations and mantras for bringing deity power into the physique and thoughts. Goddesses are particularly potent, since they personify shakti, the delicate female drive that enlivens the world, typically thought-about the facility behind religious progress. So working towards with the tales and mantras of one among these sacred figures can actually invite transformative energies into your life.
The photographs of those goddesses can function keys to unlocking your personal inside efficiency. That’s as a result of, although mythic, they don’t seem to be simply figments of human creativeness. Goddess pictures symbolize actual forces current within the universe. Their varieties are extraordinarily delicate, which is why they’re not usually obvious. Through the tales, meditations, and mantras related to them, you possibly can study to sense their presence. The extra you join to them, the extra palpably you’ll be able to expertise their inside presents and blessings.
Just as Lakshmi is the shakti, or goddess, you name on for abundance, so Durga is the shakti you name on for power, safety, and transformation. Worshipped by the ruling households of Rajasthan for assist in battle, Durga is far more than a warrior goddess. She can also be the facility behind religious awakening, the inside drive that unleashes religious energy inside the human physique within the type of kundalini. And she is a guardian: lovely, queenly, and motherly.
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Durga carries a spear, a mace, a discus, a bow, and a sword—in addition to a conch (symbolizing artistic sound), a lotus (representing fertility), and a rosary (symbolizing prayer). In one model of her origin, she arises from the mixed power of the male gods to battle the buffalo demon Mahisha. The assembled gods, livid as a result of they’re powerless over this demon, ship forth their anger as a mass of sunshine and energy. It coalesces into the type of a radiantly lovely lady who fills each path together with her mild. Her face was shaped out of the sunshine of Shiva; her hair got here from Yama, the god of dying; Vishnu, the sustainer, gave her arms. Shiva gave her his trident, Vishnu his discus; Vayu—the wind god—provided his bow and arrow. The mountain god, Himalaya, gave her a lion for her mount. Durga units forth to battle the demon for the sake of the world, armed with all of the powers of the divine masculine.
And ever since, she has been the deity to name on whenever you’re in serious trouble. In the Devi Mahatmyam (Triumph of the Goddess), a medieval music cycle about Durga that’s nonetheless recited throughout India, she guarantees that she is going to all the time seem once we want her to shield our world. She invitations us to flip to her in disaster and guarantees to transfer mountains to rescue us from each type of evil—together with the evil we, ourselves, create!
Durga Slaying demons
In reality, within the tales of Durga, the demons she battles will not be simply exterior dangerous guys. They additionally characterize the inside obstructive forces we face in our journey to enlightenment and self-actualization. So, as you learn her story, consider it not simply as a superhero saga but in addition as a parable concerning the means of internal work. Consider that it’s displaying you ways to dissolve the damaging energies of worry, greed, and anger with the intention to stand in your important power and wonder. Your internal battle will not be as dramatic as this one. But it’s happening, nonetheless!
Shumbha and Nishumbha are sensible demon brothers with magical superpowers. They’ve practiced arduous austerities so as to earn a boon, or profit, from their cosmic grandfather, Brahma. The boon makes them unconquerable by males or gods, however Brahma has been cautious to phrase the boon in order that it accommodates a loophole: It says nothing a few goddess.
The demon brothers are quickly masters of the universe. They eject the gods from the celestial areas and enslave the inhabitants of the earth. The gods are lowered to hiding in caves, plotting revenge. But lastly, a sage reveals to them that the demons have a weak spot.
Though Shumbha and Nishumbha can’t be conquered by anybody male, they could be weak to a feminine warrior. So the gods journey to the mountain the place Durga has her hidden dwelling to ask her for assist.
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As they name out to her with prayers and hymns of reward, Durga seems out of the clouds, clothed in robes whose colours shift and slip, revealing and concealing the great thing about her breasts and the curve of her stomach. An erotic fragrance surrounds her. She rides a lion.
In a voice like tender thunder rumbling by way of mountains, she agrees to intervene and restore the stability. The goddess has no sooner spoken than she has transported herself to the demon kings’ backyard. Flowers drip from her fingers, and clouds type and dissolve in her hair. She is magnificence personified, allurement clothed in type, enchantment itself. Within moments, the demon kings have come to their home windows to take a look at her. They are connoisseurs of female magnificence. Of course, they need her of their harem.
But when the palace major-domo brings the demons’ proposal to Durga, she smiles. “There is just one difficulty,” she explains. “In my girlhood, I took a silly vow that I would only marry a man strong enough to defeat me in battle. You know how girls are—full of fantasy and romantic notions. But a vow is a vow. If your masters really want me, they’ll have to fight with me.”
“Lady, you are either mad or suicidal,” says the major-domo. “No one has ever defeated my masters.”
“Nonetheless, that is my condition,” says Durga, giving him such a languorous look that he feels stirrings of lust in each a part of his physique. “And if your masters are afraid to do battle, I am happy to take on their army.”
Which she does. In an intense battle, the goddess defeats battalion after battalion. At one level, a number of goddesses emerge from her physique, together with the fearsome Kali. Together, the goddesses destroy your complete demon military, leaving solely the brothers. Shumbha advances upon Durga.
“You said that you would fight my army single-handed,” shouts Shumbha in a voice so loud it shakes the close by hills to powder. “But you had helpers. Your challenge is forfeit.”
“Not so,” roars the goddess, vibrating the sky with celestial thunder. “These goddesses are parts of me.” The different goddesses soften again into her type, leaving simply Durga, shining with an virtually blinding mild.
The goddess’s eight-armed type swells till it fills the sky. Twirling her nice sword like a baton in a single hand and her axes, maces, spears, and crossbows within the others, she flies via the air and slays the demon kings.
“Ma,” says Shumbha together with his dying breath, after which a smile comes over his face because the ecstasy of the goddess fills his being. In that prompt, each demons are transfigured, dissolving into Durga’s physique and dying into the thriller. When the ego dissolves, even probably the most demonic soul comes house, again to the guts of the mom. Durga returns to her mountain house, promising to return when there’s want for her assist.
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How to use Durga to let go of ego
This story is sensible on a number of ranges. From the viewpoint of the surroundings, it’s a narrative concerning the unstoppable energy of nature. From one other perspective, it assures us that larger powers will shield us once we take refuge in them. But on the esoteric degree, the Durga story is concerning the transformation of the ego. The mighty battle between Durga and the demons is the internal wrestle that invariably begins once we undertake actual transformative follow.
Like these demon kings, the ego enters into religious follow with its personal secret agenda. Egos search management—management over circumstances, management over the physique, and management over the individuals round us. Power and mastery are what matter to the ego. So, naturally, the ego will resist surrendering to larger powers, letting go of its agendas, or giving up management on any degree. But shakti has a special agenda. She needs to transfer us away from selfish consciousness and acknowledge our elementary oneness with each other and the cosmos. To do that, she should put the ego instead and finally dissolve it. The ego, nevertheless, will struggle her to the demise.
The demons personify the extra primitive and intransigent forces of ego. They are the elements of us that unabashedly crave energy over others. The demonic a part of the self sees the whole lot and everybody, together with the upper powers of the universe, as instruments that serve the ego’s private agendas. The gods, as we’ve talked about, additionally characterize points of the self, however they characterize the genuine Self, the distinctive private qualities of essence. The devas characterize our love, our dedication, our good intentions, and the forgiveness and compassion we show once we’re aligned with the upper Self. Durga arrives in our inside world to strengthen these larger qualities, whether or not for the sake of carrying out good on the earth or for progress on the religious path.
As postmodern practitioners, we often choose to take a gentler angle towards our darkish aspect. Most of us way back rejected authoritarian faith, with its speak of sin and insistence on eliminating the darker forces inside us.
If we’re practitioners of a path that emphasizes our innate goodness, we’d favor to ignore the destructive qualities within the self on the precept that preventing the ego solely strengthens it. If we’re psychodynamically oriented, we could be interested by bringing our shadow qualities into the sunshine so we will combine the facility tied up in anger or greed or satisfaction. If we’re strolling a nondual path, we might really feel that each one wrestle has to be given up, since all the things is finally one.
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All these approaches are helpful, some on the extent of character, others as a part of the apply for enlightenment. But there are moments when the one means to put our narcissism instead is with a sword—the sword of knowledge wielded by a warrior who takes no prisoners. This is Durga’s position, whether or not she is working within the outer world or the internal world.
In my life, the power of the warrior goddess together with her upraised sword exhibits up to remind me to get my striving, performance-oriented ego out of the best way in order that the deeper energy can unfold my life in accordance to her evolutionary crucial. Durga, in my internal world, is the unstoppable power of religious progress. When I resist that, I typically encounter an sudden setback. She may get in my face as a type of cosmic “No!” to my private agendas—after which manifest because the deeper awakening that follows when I’m in a position to allow them to go.
Over the years, I’ve been by means of this cycle typically. At occasions, egoic illusions develop greater, pile up, and take over my world—till, like a river in springtime, they grow to be so swollen that they need to come bursting forth. Then, almost all the time, I hear the roar of the goddess’s lion sounding via my goals.
Perhaps Durga exhibits up to information me by way of an deadlock. Maybe I’ll make some horrific mistake, and she or he’ll seem to assist me navigate the results. More and extra, I’ve discovered in these moments to bow to her so as to spare myself the ache that comes from resistance to the shakti’s agenda for my progress.
Whenever you are feeling your self caught in a type of moments—when your private will appears blocked by immovable obstacles—think about that it is perhaps a sign from the shakti. Then, attempt sitting for a couple of minutes in meditation and utilizing your creativeness to deliver your self into the presence of Durga.
Finding Your Ferocity with Durga
One of probably the most highly effective practices for connecting with the goddess is to think about that with every inhalation, you attract her loving, defending, empowering power, and with every exhalation you breathe her power by way of your physique. As in a lot yoga follow, the breath is the bridge between our bodily self and the delicate energies of the invisible worlds. When you invoke Durga, you could very properly really feel her as a heightened power. But connecting to Durga’s power is simply as doubtless to end in a delicate feeling of larger perception, in a sense of being supported with power to keep on throughout a tough time, or within the strategic intuition that helps you win your battles. This can occur so subtly that it’s solely in hindsight that you simply understand you have been being supported. And this will occur in shocking methods.
Sasha, a lawyer and the mom of two women, first found the Durga shakti when her daughter Lee started failing in class. It turned out that Sasha’s husband, Lee’s father, was partaking his daughter sexually. Sasha vowed that, no matter it took, she would shield her daughters. She filed for divorce, insisting that her husband not be allowed unsupervised visits with their women. He fought arduous for joint custody, deploying a high-powered authorized staff. (Though a lawyer herself, Sasha’s subject is wills and trusts, and she or he had by no means litigated.)
In the midst of this, Sasha took a category I used to be educating on the goddesses. She felt an instantaneous affinity for Durga and created a meditation by which she imagined Durga’s power inside her personal physique. She would visualize every of Durga’s eight arms holding a specific energy. In one hand, she imagined the facility to use phrases skillfully. In one other, the facility to learn monetary statements with care. In one other, the talent to face down her husband’s legal professionals. She imagined all of Durga’s weapons as energies empowering her to shield her two daughters.
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She gained the case and, quickly afterward, realized that an unlimited weight had been lifted from Lee. The proven fact that Sasha had fought on her daughter’s behalf appeared to give the teenager a way of objective and a brand new understanding of her personal female power.
Like Sasha, any considered one of us can tune into our private Durga power by invoking the goddess’s power and knowledge. As you do, you’ll doubtless uncover your private capability for warrior-style management. Anyone in contact together with her internal Durga will naturally create zones of safety across the individuals in her life. (Durga can also be an easy multitasker, like a mom who manages three youngsters whereas cooking a five-course meal—or an government operating a staff of numerous staff.)
The Durga lady makes area for individuals to flourish, preventing their battles when wanted—as Sasha did for her daughters—however she is simply as possible to push them into preventing for themselves.
Answer Durga’s Call to Lead
One approach to really feel a way of the Durga shakti is to keep in mind a second once you acknowledged, from the deepest place inside you, that one thing was fallacious, that it had to change. If that recognition comes from the Durga shakti, it goes past mere frustration or cognitive consciousness of a social drawback. Durga’s transformative energy carries a conviction that comes from deep contained in the physique, and with it typically comes a way of “Now!”—which means the time is now. When that sense is robust sufficient, it’s adopted by motion. You will put your physique and your speech on the road to change the state of affairs, whether or not it’s inner or exterior.
One of my Durga pals in Los Angeles observed that her son’s bronchial asthma was activated when native crops have been being sprayed for pests. She organized a gaggle of moms to protest aerial spraying in her space, and after a number of years, the group not solely had it banned in Los Angeles, but in addition had the pesticide faraway from circulation completely. Now, alongside together with her day job as a psychotherapist, she runs an environmental group targeted on lobbying towards airborne pesticides.
The similar energy of purposeful motion could be invoked if you want the desire to change a deep-seated behavior or habit, to carve out time for follow, or to comply with an internal calling. The Durga shakti can provide the energy to face elements of your self that stand in the best way of your evolution, however she will additionally present you ways to converse up for your self if you want to ask for a increase, face a problem, or tackle a troublesome duty—briefly, to set issues proper.
The extra you invite Durga’s power into your life, the extra you’ll really feel her opening you to your inside warrior. Her energy guards your highest aspirations, and she or he guarantees by no means to allow you to down.
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This piece initially appeared within the June 2013 concern of Yoga Journal and is tailored from Sally Kempton’s guide, Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga (Sounds True, 2013).