Navaratri, Symbol-making, and Futurism

According to Śaiva/Śakta tantra, Śakti represents the dynamic, self-reflective aspect of Consciousness. Śakti is celebrated during Navaratri, a festival observed across the Hindu world.

During Navaratri, we embrace and connect with the multifaceted nature of the divine feminine, celebrating these three aspects of Goddess Durga.

In the first three days, when celebrating Kali, it is customary to look closely at our attachments, and bring a focus to what we are letting go of.

In the subsequent three days, we open up to the grace of Lakshmi’s abundance, and let our bodies and our choices be a testament to her graceful beauty. We focus on what we are grateful for, and what is sacred to us. What are we preserving, and holding sacred in our lives?

In the final three days, blessed by Saraswati energy, we focus on what we are creating.

Many folks (like me) who did not grow up in these Dharma traditions have a lot of questions about these forms of the sacred. Devotion is lovely, and it’s a fundamentally positive thing to be inquisitive. So let’s query deeply into what devotion and these forms are all about.

Some people understand the Goddess forms as just teaching metaphors. Some feel they are symbolic stories to point us to different aspects of our nature. Others speak of the Goddess as consciousness itself, and the distinct forms as “fields of energy” — which I resonate with deeply.

Whether you choose to work with these sacred forms during Navaratri or not, know that any degree to which you can become present to the meaning-making, symbol-producing nature of the mind is a good thing! We tend to live so severed from our true knowing. I’m a fan of anything that allows us to see through our blind spots, and look more deeply into the invisible, unconscious forces that drive us. Opening up to the beyond in the form of the Goddess may allow us more insight, more compassion, and more capacity to let go.

Also, as usual, I want to encourage you to work with your creativity! Creative practice is core to spiritual practice. I’ve come to see creative practice and meditation practice as two wings of a bird, both being indispensable.

Whether you work with dreams, art, writing, the breath, or something else in meditation practice, you are giving yourself a remarkable gift: A process by which any undigested material can become either integrated or dissolved by the luminosity of your mindful, compassionate attention.

Also, these are really rugged days on the screen of the mind. We are all activated by what is happening in the Middle East — and for those of us in the US, we are particularly aware of the monumental role that US interests play there. Spiritual practice includes the ways that we work with the suffering of the world, as well as our vision for the world. We cannot build visions for our own lives without including an awareness of the wider world and the traumas, tensions, pressures, and possibilities that others face.

Sometimes, we get overwhelmed by the challenge of working with our shared, collective material, not to mention the material of our own personal history. The core of this practice is to keep the heart open, and to continually re-make the ideas we have about the world “outside” ourselves. It takes courage to see the outer world as a mirror of the inner.

Sometimes, making art can provide profound symbols that help us stay true. Consider that when you encounter material that feels overwhelming, embedded in its core lies some treasure of essence nature waiting to be discovered and integrated, so that it can become a blessing in your life, an offering to all your relations, and a return to wholeness.

Let us to look together at what we are releasing, what we are preserving, and what we are creating.



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