Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Change, growth, and rebirth

Earlier today, seeking counsel from some wise women I'm blessed to count among my friends, I shared some of the stories that influenced my last blog post-- stories that had been directly confronted in the last post, along with some other issues with which I've been struggling the last few days. As mentioned before, I do deal with a great deal of self-blame and sadness when I feel I've done anything that is potentially harmful to another person, whether or not the harm was ever intended. It's just the way my heart is wired-- to worry about others, and to hope that I can be a positive influence, and only a positive influence (to the extent that is possible) in the lives of those people I meet, particularly those I love. When I feel I may have made a mistake, usually out of nothing but the best of intentions, it eats me up inside and I am consumed with worry and heartache until I find a way to see the good in it.

So my wise women friends all had incredible insights and loving things to say, knowing me well enough to know that I almost always have good intentions (even if I am at times confused or awkward). One statement in particular was the source of an incredible awakening in my heart-- something I needed to hear, but perhaps had been a little scared of knowing.

"There's a reason the Hindus created the goddess Kali to represent the magnificent forces of destruction and rebirth that God offers."

After reading that statement, I had to stop and take a moment to reflect on my current situation, and on many difficult situations I've faced in the past.

More on that in a minute. But first, for those who aren't familiar with Kali...

From http://hinduism.about.com/od/hindugoddesses/a/makali.htm:

Kali is represented with perhaps the fiercest features amongst all the
world's deities.... Kali's fierce form is strewed with awesome symbols.
Her black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing and transcendental nature.
Says the Mahanirvana Tantra: "Just as all colors disappear in black, so all
names and forms disappear in her". Her nudity is primeval, fundamental, and
transparent like Nature — the earth, sea, and sky. Kali is free from the
illusory covering, for she is beyond the all maya or "false consciousness."
Kali's garland of fifty human heads that stands for the fifty letters in the
Sanskrit alphabet, symbolizes infinite knowledge.
Her girdle of severed
human hands signifies work and liberation from the cycle of karma. Her white
teeth show her inner purity, and her red lolling tongue indicates her omnivorous
nature — "her indiscriminate enjoyment of all the world's 'flavors'." Her sword
is the destroyer of false consciousness and the eight bonds that bind
us.... Her three eyes represent past, present, and future, — the three
modes of time — an attribute that lies in the very name Kali ('Kala' in Sanskrit
means time).
The eminent translator of Tantrik
texts, Sir John Woodroffe in Garland of Letters, writes, "Kali is so called
because She devours Kala (Time) and then resumes Her own dark formlessness."
.... The reclined Shiva lying prostrate under the feet of Kali suggests that
without the power of Kali (Shakti), Shiva is inert.

From the bastion of "must be true" (but still good enough for the purposes of a relatively casual blog post) knowledge that is Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kali):

In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Kali Ma is often considered the kindest
and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses, as she is regarded by her devotees
as the Mother of the whole Universe. And, because of her terrible form she is
also often seen as a great protector. When the Bengali saint Ramakrishna once asked a devotee why one would prefer to worship Mother over him, this devotee
rhetorically replied, “Maharaj, when they are in trouble your devotees come
running to you. But, where do you run when you are in trouble?”[30]

According to Ramakrishna, darkness is the Ultimate Mother, or Kali:
My Mother is the principle of consciousness. She is Akhanda Satchidananda; indivisible Reality, Awareness, and Bliss. The night sky between the stars is perfectly black. The waters of the ocean depths are the same; The infinite is always mysteriously dark. This inebriating darkness is my beloved Kali.
-Sri Ramakrishna

....From a Tantric perspective, when one meditates on reality at rest, as absolute pure consciousness (without the activities of creation, preservation or dissolution) one refers to this as Shiva or Brahman. When one meditates on reality as dynamic and creative, as the Absolute content of pure consciousness (with all the activities of creation, preservation or dissolution) one refers to it as Kali or Shakti. However, in either case the yogini or yogi is interested in one and the same reality — the only difference being in name and fluctuating aspects of appearance. It is this which is generally accepted as the meaning of Kali standing on the chest of Shiva.[37]

....Gopi Krishna proposed that Kali standing on the dead Shiva or Shava (Sanskrit for dead body) symbolised the helplessness of a person undergoing the changing process ( psychologically and physiologically) in the body conducted by the Kundalini Shakti.[39]

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

So, to recap. Kali represents destruction and violence, although in a way that leaves her viewed by many as a protective mother figure-- one who turns her wrath on those who threaten her devotees, or those she loves. She also represents one aspect of the cycle of death and rebirth-- she is the destruction that clears the way for growth, rebirth, and spiritual development. She is the fall/winter that prepares the earth for a more glorious spring/summer. She is the decay and rot that season the soil, preparing it to produce new life and beautiful growth. She is the downward portion of the inward spiral that promises to bring us back up again, each time closer and closer to Center. She is the emotional upheaval and internal violence we all feel just before the most incredible periods of intense growth and renewal, and the complete dismantling of what we believed to be our lives, our purpose, that happens just before our lives can be reassembled in beautiful, synchronistic, serendipitous ways we had never expected. She is fearsome and terrifying and disorienting, but only because we do not (in our human ignorance) understand what it is that she is preparing us for.

Please don't think I'm comparing myself to Kali, by the way. Although some of you who have seen my temper first hand might be inclined to differ, I genuinely am thinking in this moment of Kali as a force acting on and in my life with regard to my past and present experiences. Every time I've experienced what felt like a complete and total dismantling of my reality, it has hurt. It has been painful. And it has, without fail, been followed (usually sooner or sometimes later) by one of the most intense periods of spiritual and emotional growth imaginable. The broken bone that healed poorly sometimes must be broken again in order to heal more fully. The broken heart that has never allowed itself to be open again to genuine love sometimes must experience that brokenness once more to open it back up. The refiner's fire heats us to the point where we think we can no longer take the heat in order for the impurities in us to rise to the surface, where they can be gently lifted away by the refiner who loves us, never leaves us, and sits by us through every burning pain.

And in the end, we come out better and stronger. We have to. I can't imagine a world in which trials do not lead to further knowledge, growth, and strength. I cannot conceive of a God who does not allow difficult times in our lives to contribute to our good, often proportionally to the degree of suffering that creates the good.

This is my reality: Life brings challenges. Challenges help you grow. Growth is good, and helps to shape you more and more into the person you are called to be, equipping you with skill sets and characteristics and strength you will need to do what you are meant to do, once you realize you are meant to do it. This is not a bad thing-- this is just life.

And this post-- this train of thought-- is an incomplete work for me. This is something to which I've devoted much thought in the past, which has been presented to me in a new light in the wee hours of this morning, and to which I will certainly give much more thought as the days advance. But for now, this is a start. Hopefully a good one. A new beginning. For me, for those I love, and for those they love. Good things, even if it may not seem like it now.

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