How to Work the Power of Goddess Durga into Your Daily Life
My Story with Durga
In recent years I have come to understand my relationship to the goddess Durga as my own fierce commitment to living a joy-filled life. Growing up with alcoholism, I experienced how this devastating illness can literally knock you off your life’s path. Even though I am not a drinker, unforeseen chaos ensued in my life, causing feelings of confusion, shame, and unworthiness.
Through yoga, meditation, and philosophy, I have learned to step more fully into my inner strength, harness my gifts, and go for opportunities in life. The power of consciousness we call Durga is this ability to confront our fears, go to battle with our ego, and stand more upright in worthiness, beauty, and wisdom.
Get to Know the Goddess Durga
Two greedy demons, Shumbha and Nishumbha, have plans to take over the world. These demons have usurped yogic powers undermining Lord Brahma, the creator of the Universe. They are yogis and have been through all kinds of rigorous training and certifications. When they appear before Lord Brahma, he gladly offers them the gift of immortality as a gesture of gratitude for all that they have accomplished.
Little does he know that secretly they will begin building their empire. The one caveat to granting immortality, Brahma says, is if a woman challenged and beat them, they would surely perish. The demon brothers laugh at this (their first big mistake) and continue to acquire, consume, ravage, and pillage all for their benefit.
The gods and goddesses notice the devastation and greed are ruining the planet. They suspect the demon brothers have gone too far and taken immediate action to put an end to these dark forces. At once, they pull together to create a powerful prayer to awaken the feminine, a plea that she return to help restore balance. From the center of this prayer circle, Durga rises like a pillar of light, barefoot, and half-naked.
She sits upright on her tiger, with long flowing dark hair. The gods have offered her certain gifts of which she holds in her eight arms: sword, mace, discus, lotus blossom, conch, bow, trident, and shield. She takes these to battle with the dark forces. She is an exquisite warrior goddess: primal, instinctual, sensual, and fierce. She is the divine feminine. She is you.
As you can imagine, this massive light was felt by everyone, including our demons, Shumbha and Nishumbha. They hear stories of Durga’s raw power and extraordinary beauty. They want to consume her for themselves. They obviously don’t understand that the feminine can never be bought, sold, or co-opted without major setbacks. Durga goes to battle, eventually defeating these demon brothers and, with the help of her sister Kali, slays them for good.
When we awaken the energies of Durga, we come face to face with our feelings of doubt, fear, and inhibiting beliefs. It’s the same way we sabotage life and its creative capacities. Durga asks us to affirm life, to say yes to everything, including our shadow. She demands we confront our ego as pride and arrogance, as well as feelings of doubt, fear, and inhibition. In fact, if we are to grow, evolve, and awaken, we must embrace the dark.
Durga’s myth teaches us that when we take up a meditation practice, we wake up the vital life force within us that heals. She teaches us that part of awakening means being willing to confront negativity. Through daily meditation practice, we get an upsurge of energy, which begins to transmute this poison into nectar.
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Find Durga in Your Yoga Practice and Nature
We find Durga in our yoga practices at the place where exhale meets inhale, where the great marriage of the two leads us into the central channel where Durga is born as the great Kundalini force. The awakening of the Kundalini is at the heart of all yoga. With committed meditation practice, Durga promises us a breakthrough.
Awakening Durga’s energy can transform life and uplevel your health and vitality. Remember, Durga is the life force within you, the vibrancy of your breath and heartbeat. She is also the force in nature behind every snowstorm, tsunami, earthquake, flood, and intense fire. She is the primal force behind a spiritual awakening or sudden inspiration to make your life better. When the going gets tough, we call on Durga for radical breakthroughs in life.
Take up a Mantra Practice
Through a daily mantra meditation practice, we can experience the powerful electrical pulsing life force that exists in everything. In this recognition, we come face to face with latent gifts, talents, and untapped resources from within. Over time and with dedicated practice, we begin to release the limiting negative patterns of doubt, fear, inhibition, and unworthiness.
Daily Durga Practices
- Power clean your house
- Go on a 30-day cleanse
- Commit to a 30-40 day sadhana practice that evokes dramatic shifts and changes in life
- Watch a thunderstorm in awe of nature’s power
- Walk a beach and notice the power of the ocean waves moving in and out
- Sit around a campfire to notice the intensity of the fire element
- Climb/ hike a mountain in awe of your powerful body’s strength
- Feel the satisfaction of completing a project
- Stand up for a social justice cause
- Take a stand for mother Earth
- Be a part of a women’s march
Durga Yoga Practices :
- Viloma pranayama: breathing practices with slight retention on the exhale
- Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga practices
- Kapalabhati fire breathing
- Hip-opening, forward fold, and arm balancing postures
Chant ‘Om Dum Durgaye Namaha’ 108 times every day for 40 days. This chant helps bring awareness to a situation that you would like to shift, transform, or breakthrough.
The Power of Lakshmi: Confronting Negativity in Your Life
My first encounter with the goddess Lakshmi was, as a child, watching my mother dress in her finest silks and taffeta dresses for parties and going to the symphony, as well as her financial contribution to the arts and education. While my mother modeled Lakshmi, at sixteen I dressed in oversized khakis and my father’s flannel shirts. I wore just about anything that would cover up my piston thighs and my discomfort as my body was changing.
While I was an avid athlete and modern dancer, it wasn’t until I started formal yoga practice in my twenties that I began to confront my negative body image and to have reverence for myself. Each inhale asked me to fill up with gratitude for breath, for life, for this body. Every exhale invited me to let go of my negative self-talk.
Each posture evokes positive attributes such as the strength and elegance of a mountain, the uprightness of a regal tree, and the wisdom of a sage. Through yoga practices, we begin to recalibrate our inner map and rewrite the story we wish to live, one of vibrant creativity, joy, and reverence for life. As one of my teachers Douglas Brooks teaches, “Turn your Klesha’s (pain) into Lakshmis ( jewels).” Take your negativity and pain and get creative with life. Make more beauty out of our pain.
It’s said that anytime Lakshmi is disrespected she leaves her human form and takes refuge and protection in nature. The way in which humans disconnect from the life force in themselves and consequently in everything else has caused us to be in a deep, heavy sleep and living in denial.
Environmental devastation, indecent treatment of animals, and catastrophe will persist until humans wake up to the feminine essence in themselves and in everything. This is what the word yoga insists upon, the integration of the masculine and feminine within every human being. We need the masculine to hold a boundary, to help us act in the world, but without the feminine, we lack the ability to reflect upon our actions and speech, and the ability to nurture and sustain. Without the feminine human beings very well could perish.