Inviting the Fierce Feminine Mother Kali Into Your Life
I am particularly fond of participating in or teaching classes themed around the Goddess Kali. Creating an invitation for Kali to enter our life is a way to invite fierceness into our being. She is the powerful and ferocious energy of the feminine mother.
Kali is often referred to in Hindu mythology as the dark goddess, the goddess of doomsday, the goddess of time, and the goddess of death. But once we delve deeper into what she really stands for, we see beyond this doomsday classification. She is ferociously powerful, and in her power, she is the fierce representation of motherly love; a mother’s bold and fiery force of love, as well as her innate desire to protect and support her children.
Kali is a form of Shakti or the feminine universal energy that motivates creativity and fertility. She is also an incarnation of Parvati, the Earth Mother (first wife of Shiva of the Holy Trinity). In this way, she also becomes a feminine counterpart to Lord Shiva, the God of Destruction. Her name has been translated as ‘she who is black’ or ‘she who is death.’
Many of the depictions of Kali show a warrior goddess to be feared. She is often seen wearing a necklace of chopped-off heads and a skirt of severed arms. She wields a knife dripping blood in one hand, holds a decapitated head in the other, and has a red lolling tongue dripping with blood.
As the goddess of time, Kali embodies the true nature of time. She demonstrates how time eventually absorbs all things. She is the ending to the beginnings and middles. Remember also that every ending holds a void of space, or nothingness, and from the space of nothingness, bright new beginnings are generated.
Kali and Durga
One of my favorite anecdotes of how Kali was born relates to the goddess Durga. Durga had initially been created in the likeness of the Holy Trinity, and therefore possessed certain talents of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. She was created to help overcome the forces of evil attacking the Universe, including Mahishasura, the evil buffalo demon.
Durga was fighting a losing battle. Despite the fact her eight arms brandished a variety of weapons used in battle, Mahishasura was winning. Each time Durga stabbed or slew him and spilled his blood, Mahishasura became gremlin-like, multiplying with water. His blood would spill, and each droplet would form into another warrior demon to help him defeat Durga.
Durga got angrier and angrier and her brow began to furrow before she slipped into a moment of her greatest rage. From her brow and from her third eye, the anger spilled out onto the battlefield. Durga’s anger began to form into the shape of the dark blue-black hues of the goddess Kali.
As she manifested from Durga’s point of greatest rage, Kali used the energy of anger to her advantage. She summoned it to help with the multiplying demons in front of her, needing to figure out a way to stop spilling their blood.
Kali popped one demon into her mouth. ‘Not bad,’ she thought. ‘Tastes like chicken…’ Luckily she was a goddess with a good appetite and continued to eat demon after demon-like popcorn—WHOLE demons so as not to spill any more blood. She worked efficiently and tirelessly until the demons were gone and her belly felt full. In this way, Kali helped Durga win the battle against Mahishasura!
Kali and Shiva
But it doesn’t stop there. Kali was on a roll. The blood of the demons was slightly addictive, so she went into an undiscerning feeding frenzy. She was flying high on demon blood, and although they had been diminished, she wanted more. She stuck out her tongue, dripping with blood, and licked her lips while she looked around for her next snack.
Kali grabbed and grasped at everything around her and started stuffing it into her mouth. She was eating foliage, unlucky animals, and anything else she could find. In her feeding madness, she was also destroying everything exceptional and valuable.
Kali continued in her whirling dance of consumption. The gods and goddesses became alarmed and had no idea how to get Kali to stop her destructive, bloody rampage. They called upon Shiva, the masculine counterpart to Kali, and asked him to help.
It’s all about balance. There is dark and light, the sun and the moon, the masculine and the feminine. Shiva saw Kali in her unbalanced, blinded, and out-of-control state and realized she needed to be pulled back towards a more equitable frame of mind.
Shiva laid himself down on the battlefield and anxiously waited for Kali to get closer, hoping his idea would work. Kali swirled around in her frazzled state, still eating anything and everything in sight. She danced and twisted closer to Shiva. Close enough for her footfall to land on Shiva’s chest.
The moment Kali felt Shiva was the moment she was brought back to a more harmonious way of being. Shiva was her masculine equivalent and he reined her back to reason. He was familiar and comforting enough to finally calm Kali from her ruinous actions. As a consequence of this story, many battlefields and cremation sights have an association to the goddess Kali.
How to Embody Kali
When practicing physical postures to call in Kali, begin in goddess or temple pose. Feel the balance of both strength in the legs and fierce softness in the heart. Clasp your hands into a steeple grip, then release the index fingers to a point. This is called Kali Mudra.
Extend your Kali Mudra overhead by straightening your arms. Take a huge breath in through your nose. Exhale from an open mouth while you slice your straight arms with Kali Mudra down and in front of you towards the pelvis. Exhale loudly and send it out of the body as much as possible. While you exhale, look gently towards your third eye. Mimic Kali by sticking your tongue out as far as you can.
If you like adding a silent mantra or a phrase to your efforts, use the following to evoke her essence:
OM SRI MAHA KALIKAYAI NAMAHA
I AM FIERCELY POWERFUL / LOVING
Asking Kali to infiltrate your life when you need her requires a fierce and unrelenting temperament. Be a mother figure who vehemently defends and protects her child, whatever you might consider as your child. Learn to speak ‘no’ with a strong commitment to your boundary. Stop apologizing for so many things. Only apologize for what deserves an honest ‘sorry.’
Instead of being scared, insecure, and asking so many questions based on a fear of messing things up, take action based on your knowledge, understanding, and trust in what you DO know. Learn how to be unapologetic and unwavering in who you are. Ask for what you want. Embrace your individuality.
The Legend of Garuda; Half-Man, Half-Bird
Chances are, if you’ve ever found yourself on your yoga mat, you may have experienced Garudasana, or Eagle Pose. Many are unaware of the origins of the yoga pose, or the story behind the legendary Garuda. I love Garuda because I went to high school in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the main airline in those days was called Garuda Airlines. I also remember seeing many statues of Vishnu in Bali riding on top of his trusty friend, Garuda. I soon became infatuated with the stories of Garuda and what he exemplifies for us as yogis.
Garuda, half-man/half-eagle, was the vehicle for Vishnu. Vishnu is known in Hindu mythology as “The Protector” or “The Sustainer” and is one of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity consists of Brahma (Beginnings), Vishnu (Middles), and Shiva (Endings). The beginnings, middles, and endings represent the eternal ebb and flow of all of our experiences. We soon learn they are the only constant in an ever-changing world. Vishnu as The Sustainer is much like our breath that sustains our life. He is also the love that sustains our souls.
Garuda was known for his propensity for eating poisonous serpents. The full yoga posture binds the arms and legs around one another and provides compression. Once any compression posture is released, we generally experience a fresh new outlook and energetic exchange. Garuda loved to eat poisonous serpents for his meals. His body knew how to transform the serpents into nutrition in order to feed, sustain, and nourish himself.
When Garuda was first born he was massive. The egg he hatched from was enormous, and his wingspan was unlike anything any deity had ever seen before. The other deities were very intimidated by his size and knew he would grow even larger over the year, so they huddled together and came up with a plan. They asked Garuda to make himself smaller. Because Garuda was new to the community, he acquiesced. Being a newborn, he didn’t want to offend anyone. He also wasn’t so proficient at standing up for himself yet. But he did realize that even though his frame was smaller, he still had a bigness of spirit. He promised himself he would always let his spirit shine as big as he could.