Even though yesterday marked the last night of Navaratri, the Indian celebration of the Goddess, it has left an impression that I know will stay with me. Navaratri literally translates as nine nights, and it is a time to pay homage to the Divine Feminine in all her forms. Most specifically, we spend the first three night honoring Durga, the second three nights worshiping Lakshmi, and the final three nights honoring Saraswati.
I began my observance of Navaratri by planting barley seeds in an earthen pot on my altar as a way to give reverence to the great power of Mother Nature, as her grace is what sprouts the seeds and allow them to grow. This planting of barley is a traditional practice, as it symbolizes the shakti of Divine Mother Earth. It is thought that the growth of the barley is the Goddess bestowing her blessing upon us, and our nurturing the seeds is our expression of devotion to her.
As I spent the first three nights connecting to Ma Durga, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming presence. It had always been my understanding that Durga is a fierce energy, with great power and strength and as such she always seemed a little bit intimidating to me. But on these nights as I was chanting to her, I felt an immense love and sense of protection, and I knew there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of; neither from her or from life. Durga is there for us, watching over us and taking us beyond any difficulties. She is the strength at our core, the grace with which we can get through anything. This is nothing for us to shy away from – it is meant for us to embrace. Durga is the power of the Mother, and her love for us is immeasurable.
The next three nights are spent with Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of wealth, prosperity, bliss, love, and devotion. Not only is she beautiful, but she has this very sweet energy. Her presence felt softer to me somehow, but nonetheless real. It brought me to tears to express my thanks to her, as she has been so very generous to me. When I look back to where I was twenty years ago compared to where I am today, I know that she has been watching over me. Both she and Durga have obviously been there, I just wasn’t in tune with their presence.
The final three nights of Navaratri are dedicated to Saraswati. She is that aspect of the Goddess that bestows spiritual knowledge. As I chanted her mantra each night, I found myself wrestling with my busy mind as so often happens for many of us during meditation. I had to keep reminding myself to surrender, to give myself over to her purity and harmony. She is always accompanied by a swan, which represents sativa guna, or the quality of pure peace and clarity. Our natural tendency is to keep moving, keep planning and to never stop – all of which creates ripples in the mind that sometimes feel more like giant waves. Instead, Saraswati gives us the grace to go beyond the maya or illusion of this worldly existence and connect with our deepest truth and highest Self. We only have to remember to invite her in.
As I go forward from this Navaratri with my heart opened and the sense of the Goddess all around me, I look forward to maintaining this connection to her. I remember being in India and talking to Shambhavi about my Kundalini practice. Her words were strong, but her intention was sweet. She told me that I have no right to try to stimulate the kundalini if I don’t honor the Goddess. After months of thinking about what she said, I have come to see that kundalini is the power; the Goddess is the grace. Open myself to the grace, and the power will be found.
Jai ma guru!