To be in touch with your feminine nature, whether you are female or male, is to be in touch with your deepest, instinctual self. It is to be in tune with your emotions, needs, and intuitions. It is to feel a deep sense of connectedness to others and interconnectedness to the web of life. It is to be tapped into an infinite source of Awareness and strength.
Tantra says that Beingness is comprised of two polarities, masculine and feminine, which strive to stay in balance. This is imagined as a dynamic dance between Shiva and Shakti. The masculine, as embodied in Shiva, is the holder, the container for all this dynamic "feminine" energy. Shiva is boundless, eternal, transcendent Consciousness. Shakti, the feminine dynamic energy, is responsible for the creation and sustenance of all things. Shakti is the thus the creative energy that animates all matter. (The english word "matter" comes from the latin "mater" meaning source, origin, and mother, and the Sanskrit mātṛ.)
These masculine and feminine energies flow through us all and are expressed to varying degrees due to personal make-up, and cultural and familial conditioning. Masculine qualities are stabilizing forces and include strength, rationality, and analysis. The feminine encompasses the oceanic vibratory collective unconsciousness itself and plays out within our being as receptivity, relationship, empathy, and intuition.
EXPANDING THE SENSE OF SELF: TAPPING INTO ARCHETYPES
"This is a job for Gaaaarbage Girlllll!!!!!" When my daughter was about 4 years old she had an alter-ego she called "Garbage Girl". Who knows how she decided upon this but Garbage Girl would charge around the house cleaning things up. I loved Garbage Girl. Garbage Girl was the kid for the job. Garbage Girl got things done with one hand on her hip and her other arm outstretched leaping down the hallway. I miss Garbage Girl...
My daughter is 10 now and she has playfully cultivated another alter-ego. I won't blow her cover but I can see how useful it is for her as she bolsters up certain aspects of her personality. Kids constantly explore all the possibilities through play. As we become adults our personality patterns become more rigid. We become less playful and it is harder to shift our sense of self... but we can.
How do we start creating real shifts in our personality? How do we access our deepest instinctual Self? There are a variety of ways. One way is to work with archetypes.
An archetype is a subtle, energetic pattern. The number of archetypes are infinite. At a deep level of the subconscious mind is our collective unconsciousness upon which is imprinted all the forms of primitive, foundational consciousness which have ever existed. Psychological archetypes constitute the building blocks of human consciousness and contribute to structuring our personality. Certain psychological archetypes seem to be triggered more than others and are easily recognizable to us. For example, think of children playing a clown, thief, mother, warrior, or hero. These are all common archetypes. Take a moment yourself and imagine you are a, ooooh I don't know, a Queen! You're royalty adorned in fine jewels! You are the sovereign ruler of your nation! Just imagine... how would you hold your body and how would you hold your mind? OK, did you just feel a subtle, fleeting shift within yourself, an opening perhaps?
Now, spiritual archetypes expand into the spiritual realm, connecting us to spiritual qualities and more subtle levels of awareness. We can consciously use them to expand our sense of self, beyond our current experience of our personality, and to connect to deeper levels of Consciousness. But here we don't necessarily need to rely on imagination and visualization...
In Yoga, archetypes are embedded within mantras, the archetypal structures are the sounds themselves. (They are also embedded in yantras, mandala-like images, but we won't get into that here.)
When we chant mantras we are aligning ourselves with a particular energetic pattern or energy vortex to structure our experience of being. While some mantras have a literal meaning, their real meaning is embedded in rhythms and patterns which bring us into resonance with pure, foundational aspects of reality. And we get to choose from a diversity of mantras to do so: Lakshmi, Saraswati, Rama, Ganesh, Hanuman etc.
"SO WHAT ABOUT THE INSTINCTUAL FEMININE?", YOU'RE THINKING!!
When I started this blog a few years back and started leading chanting evenings, I had Durga dream. I dreamt that a massive white tank, as tall as a skyscraper was advancing down the center of the city. It stopped beside me and I seemed to have no choice but to enter when it opened its side door. I found inside all the women and all the female children of the entire globe ...
Durga is the great force that unifies and holds all the feminine energy of the world. She is Shakti in her fullness. All things reside within her, and she indwells within them. She is the eternal archetypal Great Goddess or Great Mother embracing all the potential forces of nature.
She is the full spectrum feminine: protectress, warrior, and nurturer. She takes on different forms depending on the need. And when you call on Durga, you bring forth your own deepest reserves of strength. Durga is born from the heat, or tapas, of our desire for goodness, from our deep aspiration for truth.
Durga is suitably lauded in the spectacular religious text The Devi Mahatmyam (The Glory of the Goddess). In this story, Brahma, Vishnu , and Shiva are helpless to the fact that the earth is being overrun by angry, malevolent forces. Their desperate fury spontaneously pours out of them, back into its primal source, and coalesces into the radiant, raging form of Durga. All the Gods then return their powers to her, in the form of weapons or adornments, as her roars echo unto the ends of the earth.
"Making the earth bend with her footstep, scraping the sky with
her diadem, shaking the nether worlds with the twang of
the bow-string, she stood there covering all the quarters with
her thousand arms."
She is holy anger incarnate, exactly what is needed to overcome the destructive type of anger, embodied in the demon Mahishasura. Durga's wrath is divine and intent on the protection of all that is good. She is fearless. She unleashes a flurry of weapons onto the battle scene:
"In the battlefield, the asuras [demigods]who afflicted the gods
were caught in a flood of arrows and were pierced all over.
Resembling porcupines, they breathed their last. "
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US?
All archetypes are available to us through our unconscious. And the more you connect with them the more you recognize that they are transpersonal forces flowing through you. You stop claiming them as your gifts and just start seeing them as Gifts. You recognize that they are aspects of Beingness itself, resilient, eternal facets of Nature. And you allow them more and more to guide you.
Archetypes embedded within mantras can act on us in two ways: to purify through sound and to configure our energy. The energy of "Durga" purifies our anger, uplifting it, if you will, towards higher purposes. This is symbolized by her lion or tiger, which, among other things is a representation of our animal, primal energies. She is fully in charge of these wild energies and able to harness their power. In this way, anger is transformed into courage.
Imagine if your own anger was your strength and not your weakness? When we don't allow feminine energy, instinctual wild energy, to flow through us in a healthy way, then it becomes like Mahishasura, swollen out of proportion and reeling out of control. I think many of us struggle to act out anger in a positive way. Who hasn't erupted at someone in anger only to later regret our actions. Anger is a tough one. But when our anger has become purified, it is simply energy available to us. There's so much injustice in the world right now we need to harness all our available energies. Who needs 'em locked up in old frustrations, hurts, and fears.
So maybe tapping into your inner Durga allows you to stand up for yourself at work when you know you're feminine qualities aren't being appreciated or worse yet, you're being outrightly misused. Maybe you can tap into your strength and tell your family, "Enough, it just can't be done". Maybe you can fight for your child when previously you took the quiet route. Maybe you'll expand outwards to fight for a greater social cause because you recognize that there is really no distinction between what is happening in the outer world and what is happening within our inner worlds. Maybe you'll start to live your truth because you recognize it is Truth.
Durga is an aspect of your deep instincts.
Durga is about tapping into your own protective powers.
Durga is about having the courage to stand up for what's right.
I have a friend who has the loveliest, eloquent yet strong way of calling people on it when they dish out crap. She gracefully seems to respond to anyone on sexist, condescending, disrespectful, or limiting behaviours. I admire her so much! May we all stand up for what we believe in including our own desires and our own needs. And may we, whether we are women or men, fight to protect and express our own feminine nature: that which is mysterious, numinous, and wild.
"Anywhere you see compassion, anywhere you see a person bending
to help someone... anywhere you see people savouring life, anywhere
you see people who are merciful ... that make us laugh, you are seeing
Clarissa Pinkes Estes
So! Join myself and yoga teacher Brandee Safran on March 8, International Women's Day for a women's only evening of invoking Durga! Activate the qualities of fearlessness and courage within your own being. This will be an all levels energizing yoga practice with chanting, japa, and meditation. More info here.
Mades del la Plaza del Mayo
Shiva and Shakti:
lioness and cub:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lion_cub_with_mother.jpg, author David Dennis
GoddessDurga: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_low_angle_shot_of_Goddess_Durga_in_A_Mandap_in_North_Kolkata,_2017.jpg Subhrajyoti07
Here are my "musings" on mantra and sound as a transformative path.