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.
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.
Ridding Your Negative Personal Narratives With Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva is a well-known and worshipped Hindu deity. He is one of the Holy Trinity (the Trimurti), which consists of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva. What each represents in our familiar terms are brand new beginnings (Brahma), the middle of everything in existence (Vishnu), and the endings (Shiva). When Shiva, as the Lord of Dissolution, gives us the endings, he also provides the space for Brahma to instill a bright new beginning. It is from the void of nothingness, or space, left after something comes to an end, that Brahma responds by bringing the start of something new.
Shiva, Lord of Dissolution
Shiva, The Auspicious One, is also known as Mahadeva or The Great God. He is worshipped as the Supreme Being in Shaivism, a major institution within Hinduism. I like to explain the concept of endings giving way to brighter new beginnings with the metaphor of a bookshelf filled with storybooks that represent our own considerations about ourselves.
Imagine you have a large bookshelf in your mind. The bookshelf is jam-packed with books whose titles represent your own self-judgments or concepts of yourself. One thing to mention is that we are constantly in judgment of ourselves. We are usually in judgment of something and judgments can be good or bad. For instance, we might see a book entitled ‘I am a great Mother,’ or ‘I am a giving person.’
Conversely, we have the debilitating narratives. ‘I am unworthy’ or ‘I am not flexible enough’ as some of the titles we’re experiencing. But the debilitating narratives are simply opportunities to grow or bring Shiva into our lives.
Shiva comes along as the Lord of Dissolution; he shows us where we are hindering our growth with certain stories or ways of being. For instance, when you decide you are fed up with thinking of yourself as unworthy, or not good enough, Shiva gives you the willpower to dissolve that story. The ‘I am unworthy’ book gets removed from the shelf and thrown to the wayside.
What is left behind is an open space, an open space ready and willing to house a new book with a new title. Brahma steps in and gives us the capacity to formulate a new storybook title that feels brighter and shinier as a new beginning, or judgment of self. For example, we switch from the ‘I am unworthy’ mantra to ‘I am good enough.’ In this way, Shiva and Brahma give us the ability to challenge our belief system and change it for self-betterment.
Shiva, Lord of Dance
A common depiction of Shiva is one of a dancing four-armed deity. In this form, Shiva is known as Nataraja, or the Lord of Dance. He is seen dancing in a halo of fire which represents samsara, or ‘flowing around.’ In his upper right hand, Shiva holds a hand drum said to have drummed the first drum beats to help create everything, paired with the sound of “Om.”
His upper left hand holds a flame said to have the ability to destroy on behalf of transformative new beginnings. His bottom lower right hand holds abhayamudra, a gesture used to convey fearlessness. His bottom left hand mimics the lifted position of his left leg. This symbolizes a respite soul’s find from the earthly troubles on a path towards soul liberation. His lifted left leg is a journey towards this elevated consciousness. Finally, the snake he wears around his waist is the creative energy that exists in our psychic body.