Finding Strength, Courage, and the Shadow with Goddess Durga

One of the requirements for this teacher training I’m pursuing in the interim is to complete a Durga sadhana.

I wrote to you last week about sadhana – what it is, and why to incorporate it into your life. So what’s a Durga sadhana?

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My unfinished sketch of Durga. Here she has only four arms; she has eight in the myths, and carries a trident, a discus, mace, a conch shell, a lotus flower, a mala, a bow, and a sword of wisdom. She is beautiful with long, dark hair, and she is the essence of fierceness and composure in the face of darkness. 

Durga is a Hindu goddess known for her fierceness, her warrior spirit, and her ability to stay composed under duress. She was born out of the yogic practices of other gods and goddesses, who grouped together to create Durga to slay the demon Mahisha, who had taken over the earth with his power and greed. When Durga rose from the earth, she knew she had a duty and a purpose, but before she went out to tackle her demon, she retreated into a cave. Here, she practiced yoga, gained composure and insight, and from there she emerged to defeat Mahisha. (And in fact, Durga’s beauty was so great, that Mahisha fell in love with her and wanted to marry her; Durga agreed to marry Mahisha if he could defeat her in battle. Mahisha lost, and right before Durga took his life, he looked into her eyes and understood the true greatness of the world, and his spirit was dissolved into Durga as his greed left – because, underneath our greed and our ego, we are all sacred and born of the great mother and to her we shall return.)

For the past 19 days, I have risen early, invoked the goddess through chanting for protection and called to her 108 times with her mantra, and sat with her mudra – the abhya mudra, or fearless heart hand position.

Durga has met me many times these past 19 days by inviting me to take action on social justice issues, to be the voice of change, and fill the void that I see in our community.

However, the past week or so, I have really been struggling. The shadow side of Durga is her belief in her moral superiority, her need to be right, and her desire for control. Yesterday, and all of this week, I have been struggling with my shadow self. It is said that any time anger arises, or frustration ensues, the anger comes not from outside, but from a rejection of something within the self.

My temper has flared this week, and in each outburst I am reminded of the parts of myself that I wish to change. The parts of myself that don’t sit well with me, that I wish to eliminate, but that cling to me like the flaws of all good people working to better themselves. I call myself a recovering perfectionist, and although I have gone a long way to eliminate my perfectionism in my diet and my body image, I still struggle to allow imperfections in my personality.

Yesterday, as I was meditating on this and wishing for Durga’s guidance, I wanted her image. Murti, or statues, are too expensive for me to purchase, and the tapestries that I could find had images of Durga that didn’t display her beauty. So I decided to draw her.

Keep in mind, that although art is in history and formal studies, drawing is not my forte. I prefer to explore art through messiness, intuition, and formlessness. Drawing is much more structured and precise. Yet, with my imprecision and sketchiness, I created the face of Durga, complete with weapons to help her fight the demons of ego and greed.

I have 21 days left in my Durga sadhana. I will continue to chant, to call to her, to invoke her and to wish for her composure in these times when my shadow comes out to play. All is in the cosmic dance.

So tell me: how does Durga show up in your life? When does Durga inspire you to take action, to work for social change, and to fight for the underdog? How can you invite Durga into your life today?

About the Author

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Amie is a human. She teaches yoga and writes and writes about yoga. She is not perfect, and she embraces her imperfections and writes about them here: www.amyisahuman.com.

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