Yoga texts teach us that a peaceful world begins with a peaceful Self.
We MUST know ourselves, inside and out. What drives us? What do we value? How do we utilize our resources? What underlying beliefs influence our behavior?
There are many ways to learn about ourselves, svadhyaya (self-study). We have different life experiences. We explore a variety of literature: stories, myths, academic textbooks, fairy tales, history books, etc. Personally, stories of the goddess resonate with me! For me, the goddess is not a separate entity. She inspires me to find these qualities inside myself. She gives me the language to define and draw out whatever strength I need.
Stories of the gods’ and goddess’ adventures in the world draw us into their imaginative world full of rich symbolism. Colorful characters embark on dramatic adventures, routinely rescuing the world!
For me, the best part is the acknowledgement of the dark side in each of us. We don’t pretend to be only sunshine and light on the inside. There is bad stuff in the world, darkness, ignorance, and when we need her, the goddess sheds light onto our lives. She brings balance. She teaches us how to live skillfully in the imperfect world.
Each time I delve into the stories of the goddess I find something different. Everyone has a different take on what something means to them. The messages are universal, nuanced, deep, interesting.
We have already studied ourselves through many different lenses: stories, poetry, relationships, religious texts, philosophies, movies, teachers, etc. These sources expose us to new ideas to identify who we want to be in this world. As long as we are alive, we further refine our identity through fresh perspectives that open our minds to something new. Perhaps the goddess has something to offer you?
We are free to integrate any piece of Yoga into our own lives in any way we wish. There are no rules. I love to say, “Be a cafeteria Yogi! Pick what you like and leave the rest.” There is never pressure. There is only love and support.
My Teacher Sheryl taught me the gardening analogy of the goddess and how she can serve us. We want the bounty from a healthy, productive garden, so we start with a wild plot of land. Before we can plant seeds, we need to clear the land. Remove weeds, rocks, debris. Till the soil. And so it is with ourselves. What is preventing us from reaching our inner potential? What barriers do we have? What “stuff” can we do without? The goddess Durga reminds us that we have choices. She encourages us to go deeply within, exploring our ideas, experiences, beliefs, to transform what we don’t need. She shows us we can know ourselves so deeply that we can live without fear, handling whatever is in front of us, in total freedom.
Next, we plant the seeds and tend to the garden. We make sure it gets everything it needs to grow: sunlight, water, nutrients in the soil. We must be an active participant in the garden, just as we must be an active participant in our inner lives. The goddess Lakshmi shows us that we are all deserving of the abundance life has to offer, but we must continue to care for ourselves. We must continually clear out the limitations of our past to make room for us to thrive. (Shout out to Veronica who taught me this!) She teaches us that we have everything inside of us, the mud, the lotus, and everything in between. If we do the work, all good things are coming!
Finally, the harvest. What do we do with the bounty from our garden? What do we do with all the beautiful gifts that have arisen from our inner work? The goddess Saraswati bring us wisdom to utilize those gifts for our highest purpose. She asks us to honestly examine our lives and question who we are and how we spend our time and resources. Are they in service to our highest purpose? Over time, we begin to neglect our garden, and it needs to be cleared again. And so it goes, over and over.
This is what we human beings are intended to do. Refine ourselves. Grow. And it is beautiful.
My April meditations will be inspired by the goddess! April’s Tea with Community will be a discussion of the goddess Kali, exploring her symbolism, which can initially feel a bit unsettling. She is fierce! And exactly what we sometimes need.
Om Shanti, friends.