Loving Ourselves Anyway – That is the Lesson

In My Meditation Today:  There is an active, engaged part of me that is entirely focused on protecting me from failure and its emotional consequences. I am constantly blown away by her cleverness in making sure that I do not keep my word to myself. She comes up with the most logical, irrefutable arguments to convince me that promises to myself were made foolishly and need not be kept. This morning, she told me that I should not spend more than 20 minutes on meditative writing. Clever, because the timer visible from the corner of my eye showed 20 minutes. She wanted me to stop and get back to mindless browsing so I could stop feeling the fear and anxiety about the election and all of the new ways in which I was stepping out – the teleseminar series, the blog, the possibility of coaching clients, etc.

As I became aware of her intention, I decided to acknowledge, but ignore her, and feel into the space in my body where I felt the discomfort and breathe into it.  As I did,  it struck me that perhaps the problem was that I had the wrong names for the emotions that I was feeling. What if I decided that the fear was excitement? What if what I named what I was feeling – “anxiety flavored with joy, excitement, and anticipation” instead of “anxiety tinged with fear and inertia”?  

Naming is a powerful act and almost immediately there was a small crack in the fear. As I breathed into that crack and focused on joy instead of worry – the lock jam in my brain was released, and I could think clearly again.

The Grand Story of the Divine Mother is told in three parts. Each part describes a battle between good and evil, and most often the story is interpreted as the forces of good and evil external to us. A more useful interpretation for me, however, is that it represents the battle between my basest instincts and my highest potential. The battles are bloody and gory because the easiest thing to do is to settle into the space of being ok with our sense of lack and not being enough and the self-hate and anger that an

11unfulfilled life generates – so a battle to live from your highest potential is hard and ugly and metaphorically bloody and gory.  

The second section of the Myth – is the story of Mahishasura. He is a demon who is a shape shifter but mostly presents himself as a raging bull. When the story starts, he has taken up residence in the heavens and displaced and usurped the authority of Surya, the Sun God, Indra the Rain God, Agni, the Fire-god, Vayu the Wind God, Chandra the Moon God, Varuna the Sea God, and all others. The displaced demigods approached Brahma the creative force, and he led them to Vishnu and Shiva to ask for a solution. As the hapless Gods recited their woes to Vishnu and Shiva, their face contorted in anger and the radiance of the all-powerful mother that was within these Gods formed itself into Durga, an almighty, powerful Goddess. Armed with weapons from  Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and the 30 other displaced Gods, she rides into Mahisha’s territory on  a lion ( a symbol of Dharma – right action) and roars. The sound of the roar is said to have sent shock waves across the earth and the heavens. The Gods rejoice at its sound, but the asuras (demons) who occupy the entire world now react with resistance and anger and prepare for battle. Mahisha himself does not appear in this story. He sends out his army with several high-ranking demons with very evocative names Chiksura – the inflictor of pain, Chamara -bestial, Mahahanu –  coarse, Baksala – bellicosity, hostility, Parivarita – concealed, veiled and Bidala – fetid, impure.

Durga Devi is said to have responded to the hundred of weapons that were thrown at her with her armaments. It says that for Durga this was “Lila”  – it was play. She who knows that everything is a manifestation of herself has no rancor or anger. She does destroy the demons, but she is acutely aware that she, in fact, destroys nothing because as they die, the spirit in all of these demons just coalesces and become one with her.  The demons are very aware of the separation. They are angry and hostile; coarse and impure and fighting hard to maintain their separation, for without it they do not exist.  Although it is play for Devi, she is not playing. Her intention is to kill the demons, and she and her lion kill without guilt or restraint.

The description of the scene of the battle is vivid and shocking.  The narrators do not hold back in their description of the goriness or the brutality of the war. Devi means business. The demons have no place in her world and they are annihilated.

A lot of people  ( including me) who read these stories at first like to distance ourselves from the violence. We think of ourselves as peaceful individuals. The mass shooters and terrorists are outside of us – they are beyond our empathy or understanding.  The fact that this is not true was brought home to me very vividly over the last couple of weeks.

I remember feeling very disappointed about an FB post of a dear friend who posted a political view that was diametrically opposed to mine.  I did not respond because I noticed how angry I was at her dismissing what in my mind is possibly the most significant movement of my adult life – the Sanders’ campaign. The more important point about it, however, was that I noticed that as I began formulating arguments against her post in my mind, my desire truly was to annihilate her opinion and in a sense her sense of well-being. I wanted to swat her off like a fly and feel her being defeated in the argument. Do you recognize that? Do you realize how violent our intention is when we are fighting to uphold our view point? It is partly because our entire identity is tied to our viewpoint and someone challenging that is akin to them questioning our whole being. So the natural response then is to challenge their being & existence. That is violence – whether we use a gun or not, it is still the energy of war. It is one we shy away from facing by justifying our anger and disappointment more and more loudly as we feel more and more threatened. Perhaps what we are most frightened about is the capacity of violence with us. Perhaps all of the shouting and protesting we do helps us not face this demon inside us that wants to protect our identity by killing the other. It is the same with every other demon represented in this story – bellicosity and hostility, coarseness and dishonesty – Notice that these demons have to displace all of nature to take control. A perfect metaphor for the displacing of the higher, wiser, all knowing self when the bellicosity, hostility, coarseness, and dishonesty take over. Once displaced, they fight hard to maintain the separation between our larger, wiser self and them. 

What if we recognized those parts of us and separated ourselves from it? What if we invoked our divinity and looked with compassion at these little-frightened part of ourselves that are projecting so much violent energy to preserve what they see as their very being?  What if we recognized those parts of us, acknowledged them, allowed for our ability and tendency towards violence, hostility, coarseness, and dishonesty and still loved ourselves anyway?

Loving ourselves anyway – that is the lesson.