In Yoga, the Feminine is considered to be the vibratory, dynamic force that creates the universe. This force is called Shakti. Shakti means “Power”.
Certain yogic traditions compare Shakti to a cosmic dancer or suggest the cosmos is her dance. I once had a teacher who suggested I partner with the Shakti within my own body and dance with her.
What exactly does this mean? What would this entail? How do we dance with the force that creates the cosmos and our bodies? And what will happen to us if we do?!
First, let’s just get a hold on the concept of Shakti. As mentioned, Shakti is the divine feminine and the kinetic force that drives creation. Shiva is the name for the divine masculine principle of transcendent awareness, the Witness of the cosmic dance. These are metaphysical principles, of course, transcending gender. The energies of Shiva and Shakti are present in both males and females. But the Yogic tradition, as with many other mystical traditions (and depth psychology) conceptualizes the Universe as an interplay of opposing forces: spirit and matter, masculine and feminine.
Ready to meet Shakti?
First, imagine Shiva as an ocean of silent, effervescent light.
Imagine suddenly a wave of energy begins to move across it.
Imagine simultaneously an eruption of crystalline, playful laughter
which creates endless ripples of energy,
ripples that begin to ricochet off each other,
creating more waves, ripples,
and spiralling vortexes of energy
which eventually become all forms.
Shiva and Shakti. The light of awareness and ecstatic vibration.
Light and sound at play in sheer delight and joyous creativity.
Our entire world and field of experience arises out of subtle vibration and sound. The movement of Shakti encompasses everything from black holes to the energy that fuels our beating heart. Shakti is the life force pushing up the vegetation that we eat, to the energy behind our thoughts. Shakti is the hurricane hurtling across the ocean’s surface, to the flow of creative inspiration that moves the dancer, musician, and poet.
“She” goes by many names depending on the particular school of thought. She is “Maya” (Illusion) the force that veils a deeper unity with a multiplicity of forms. She is “Prakriti”, the material universe. She is also known as Devi, the Mother Goddess, who births a variety of secondary female energies out of her primal matrix including, among others:
So how does this apply to us on a practical level? Well, because you can attune to the variety of frequencies of Shakti vibrating in different forms and experiences. By first attuning to the subtle world of vibration, you can then go deeper, sinking into the field of resonant stillness. And ultimately the Yogic goal is to even transcend this, attaining the formless state of Samadhi.
How to do this? This can mean being attentive to the felt sense of energy humming in the natural world. I remembering reading about a Hawaiian Kahuna who one day sat beside a bubbling brook only to follow the sound of the water back to the source of sound itself.
We can also attend to the energy of our thoughts. I had a teacher who would often suggest tapping into the felt sense of emotion that would arise with self-talk or emotional experiences … and then dropping the story, laying bare the energy pulsating underneath it. Or it can also be helpful to view all meditative phenomena (lights, visions, movements, inner sounds) as Shakti, the movement of energy, thereby avoiding becoming fixated on any experience and getting “stuck”.
We can also attend to the throb of energy within the body, surrendering to it and letting energy guide us. This might mean loosening your approach to meditation by engaging in dance or movement beforehand or by allowing your body to sway rhythmically in meditation until you naturally arrive at stillness. It means being a bit more playful.
“She” is also the creative power of the word and known as the goddess Vāk. Harnessing the power of sacred speech is another way to dance with her. The letters of the Sanskrit alphabet themselves are called “Shaktis” (powers). They are also called the Matrikas (same root as “matrix) or the “little mothers” which birth all forms. By chanting mantras you resonate with beneficial, primordial energies that can balance your system, release obstructions, and expand your sense of self.
So, as you can see, there are many ways to work with and dance with Shakti.
Or you can just fall in love. In fact, love and desire are considered one of the highest, more subtle forms of Shakti and within the Tantric tradition are personified as the goddess Lalita Tripura Sundari. Lalita means "She Who Plays" and comes from a root word meaning “spontaneous”. Tripura means “of the three cities” and is a reference to the human being. Sundari means "beauty". Adi Shankaracharya, an ancient yogic philosopher, wrote a famous poem to Shakti called Sri Sundari Lahiri, which means Waves of Beauty.
When I say you can just fall in love, I don’t mean necessarily with one person... or an idea, or some beautiful place or whatever else we typically chase after and fixate on in our external life. This is fine as long as you recognize the source of joy is actually the throb of Shakti herself. What I mean is falling in love with it all. Beauty and ecstasy are the underlying energies of all existence. The yogic path invites you and helps you to attune to these waves of beauty. In doing so, you just might consciously become the dance itself.
Intrigued? Join me March 19th from 1:30 to 2:30 at Yoga on the Park as we continue to explore different mantras as doorways to meditation. You can register here.
Here are my "musings" on mantra and sound as a transformative path.