fierce goddesses + radical change

In her fifth decade of committed meditation practice, Sally Kempton is a world-acknowledged expert in the wisdom traditions of India. Her expertise lies in teaching meditation as a process of inner exploration, and in applying yogic and tantric teachings to daily life. Ahead of her three-part workshop series on the sacred feminine, Sally shares her knowledge on fierce goddesses and radical change. 

We need the wisdom and power of the fierce goddesses Kali and Dhumavati right now. Kali and her fierce sisters are the revolutionaries of the cosmos. And this is their time.

If you feel nervous about the level of change going on in the world—well, you aren’t alone! An enormous shift in consciousness is rumbling through our lives. Like an underground volcano, it’s upending our ideas about work, about family, about race and gender, about money and health. The pandemic is just one piece of it. Another is the emotional fallout that so many of us are experiencing. These days, when friends tell me they feel vulnerable and lonely, I invite them (and myself!) to consider that these feelings are not just personal. They are a normal, healthy reaction to the deep transformations running through the collective psyche.

We’re in the midst of a powerful and positive collective awakening—spiritual, societal, psychological and cultural–that is touching every part of our lives. More and more of us feel passionate about challenging the inequalities in society. More and more of us are experiencing spiritual and creative breakthroughs. There are revolutions in awareness going on all over the world—and bringing so many of us a profound sense of possibility. And yes, there’s a backlash, equally intense, because wherever there is radical change there will be resistance to change.

In the Shakta tantric tradition, the tradition that sees the world as an expression of sacred feminine energy, both breakdown and breakthrough are understood as expressions of the energy of the fierce goddesses. Especially the energy of Kali, who is the force behind revolutionary transformation, and Dhumavati, who holds the space for waiting, for living with uncertainty, and for letting go.

Revolution is a sacred forcefield, just like love, abundance, and wisdom. And when we’re riding the currents of revolutionary change, it helps to understand the energies that are moving those currents.  If we can recognise the sacred nature of change, and its connection to the personal forms of the divine, then the rumblings of radical change can empower rather than scare us. The more we can kindle our love for the fierce goddesses, the easier it is to surf this moment in history.

Kali is the radical intensity that brings forth change. Just as relevant right now is the goddess of stasis and depression, Dhumavati, whose presence is particularly with us during the pandemic. Dhumavati is the energy that allows us to let go of the structures of life as we know it, and to rest in the radical uncertainty that allows us to wait for the new to emerge. We need them both—and for me, the experience of embracing the fierceness of Kali and surrendering into the uncertainty of Dhumavati has been one of the great transformative experiences of my life.

When working with goddesses, we need information and an experience of their energies, and tools to help us see what they specifically mean in your life.  For example, Kali can show up in our psyches as a blinding anger at injustice, or as a passionate romantic attachment and sexual attraction. Dhumavati can manifest as the depression that comes when we face loss, but also as the freedom we experience when we’ve let go of even one assumption about how life should be.

In the Shakta tantric tradition, the Goddess is seen as the Absolute itself, the pure awareness/love that brings the world into form and lives within it. Moreover, a Shakta sees all the movements of culture, weather, seasons, psychology as expressions of Goddess. To understand the world, and to move skilfully within it, the Shakta invokes the form of the sacred feminine that pertains to the situation. Understanding the nature of the sacred energy that is playing at a particular moment allows you to dance with it, to play within it, and to empower your own life by becoming a channel for particular energies—Shaktis—of Goddess.

Spiritual awakening begins when we are willing to look at everything that is behind our ordinary vision, and to face even those truths that we want to escape.  The fierce Shaktis help us take this journey into truth and love. That’s why it’s so powerful to learn how to recognise and invoke goddess energies. Whether we know it or not, they are weaving reality. The energies of life are not just abstract material forces. They are living expressions of the flavours of reality, and they can be invoked through the forms of the great Goddess figures whose energy threads through different traditions. Goddesses associated with and venerated within the Hindu tradition are present in the psyches even of people who have no cultural experience of this tradition. When we get to know them, they reveal truth to us. They show us the incredible power and love that lies behind this world, and above all, the ecstasy that lives within their love. The fierce goddesses live in our personal and collective unconscious, and their gift is to transform us, to show us our true power, and to help us make our world new. The more we know them, the more their fiery clarity gives us strength, and the more their ecstasy becomes our own.

Sally Kempton is teaching three two-hour workshops at triyoga online on the yoga of the fierce goddesses, beginning with Kali and Dhumavati on Saturday 27 February. Click here for more information.

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