In yoga class on Friday, my teacher talked about the goddess, Kali. Unlike some of her colleagues, she is not a lovely vision of refinement and beauty. Instead, she’s kind of grotesque, with a blue face, her tongue sticking out and a necklace of skulls around her neck. “She wears her insides on her outsides,” my teacher explained. She’s the goddess of death, of dissolution, of decay. She’s the goddess of time, too, and when we see deeply, we see how wonderful she is. “The beautiful leaves, when they die and fall off the trees, fertilize the earth for the next season,” said my teacher.
I could see that. If there were no death, this planet would be even more hopelessly overpopulated than it is now. Of course we know this in theory, but that doesn’t make it any easier when we lose someone we love. And while my greatest struggle these days is my story that there is “not enough time,” the truth is that our time limitations are tremendous gifts, because they force us to make choices. It’s within the framework of these choices that we see what really matters to us. It’s within this construct that we live our lives.
There is no equivalent in Greek mythology to Kali. The closest goddess of this kind might be Hera who, though beautiful, was jealous and vicious. Medusa is very Kali-esque, but she was no goddess, just a punk Gorgon.
In the Tantric tradition, which is the school of yoga in which I am immersed, Kali represents the Ultimate Reality, Byron Katie’s What Is, which I continue to believe is nearly as helpful to worship as that loving, steadfast God/Mother of my own understanding. My hope is that over time, these two will merge for me, but I’m not that wise yet. I respect Kali in her guise as What Is. I love my conception of God––Father, Mother, Black Madonna, Holy Spirit–– the way I love my parents, husband, children, sisters, dear ones.
Kali followed me around all day on Friday, and by evening when our I Wanna Be A Woman Like Me creativity retreat started, she had me by the throat and insisted I dedicate the weekend to her. It was good timing; as I posted last week, we are full on within the season of Scorpio, which is Kali time for sure. Scorpio is about going deep; it’s about death; it’s about psychological probing, turning inwards, meeting our deepest fears about being unlovable, not good enough, not having enough. And, when we bravely go “down there” and meet these fears, sit with them as if they weren’t monsters until they cease to be, we rise like the phoenix, or the Scorpion Golden Eagle, and we are given the gift of sight.
So we gathered together, thirteen amazing women, and wrote together, bringing forth our inner Kali and forging the kind of bond you only get when you are brave enough to share deeply. We ate delicious healthy food. We painted and drew and sang in three-part harmony. On Saturday night, in her father’s arms en route to bed, Elle announced in a small, shy voice, “I want to be a woman like me.”
I figure my work is pretty much done now.
So many highlights. One big one was that this was the first time Katyrna has co-lead with me, and what a joy to work with her! I think we should go into business together. (Oh, yeah…) It was awe inspiring to watch the magic happen with each woman as she brought forth her inner treasures. I felt refreshed and renewed and reminded again about how much I love to draw and paint and color and work with my hands.
On Sunday, we made vision boards. I had intended to do the whole The Secret thing with mine; trying to manifest HUGE THINGS FOR MY CAREER! through pasting images onto a board and searing them into my consciousness. So I took a photo my mother had sent me of Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday party last May. Onstage is Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Dave Matthews, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and Pete himself. I cut out an image of myself playing the guitar and glued it into the picture so that if you squint it sort of looks like I’m on stage with them all. But then my collage got away from me. I ripped through a bunch of yoga journals and kept being drawn to the face of Angela Farmer, a 71-year-old yoga teacher from the Greek island of Lesbos.
So I pasted her in. Then I cut out and glued on some family photos that had been waiting to be organized, some more yoga poses, some quotations, an image of a lovely painting of a farmhouse. So much for my grand ambitions. Later in the evening after the retreatants had gone home, I sat in meditation and visualized myself on stage with those luminaries from the photo. I was able to do it easily; after all, I actually have been onstage with Joan, Tao and Pete, and it wasn’t too much of a stretch to put Bruce and Dave M up there too. So I put myself on stage with Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, definitely my two greatest musical heroes who are still alive. Again, not too hard. It would be fun to be onstage with them, but when I think about the end of my life, lying on my deathbed, pouring through my dearest memories, I suspect that even if I were to be onstage with any of the above, those memories wouldn’t crack my top 100. What I want for my future today is deep, loving connections with my husband, children, sisters, parents; I want a strong, healthy body that grows more flexible with age, that weathers well. I want an ever deepening connection with all the forms of God, even the scary ones. I want to love. I want the vision of my vision board, which as it turns out, is a pretty clear reflection of what I already have.
Thank you, Kali.