Musings by Veronica Yacco
What draws the line between celebration and ritual? Does devotion always have to feel like a performance, something special? Can you be in communion with the Divine in your pajamas? I hope so. I hope that we are able to let our connection to the Infinite be so mundane that we could almost forget it. Almost. The thread of awareness is always the path back to that Infinite experience, but it takes our attention to remember that the Infinite naturally exists within everything finite. It's part of what is considered being "awake" in spiritual terms. The world seems mundane because we are used to being immersed in it and interpreting things as we are used to. Then maybe we have an experience that takes us out of that immersion. Like if you could see things from a very high place, maybe even space - you would perceive Earth in a very different way. And you can't un-see that perspective. Maybe it gets fuzzy with time when you are back in your usual environment, but it can't disappear. Your perception has changed. A "specialness" has been awakened in you and what used to have one layer of meaning now has another layer that is maybe more complete, or at least more expansive. Maybe you no longer take things for granted the same way you did. I imagine that our expectation that the sun will rise every morning seems very different when you can actually see the sun in relation to the Earth, see the relationship that is there that is far more complex than simple rising and falling. I think we can call this kind of internal change enlightenment - an expanding of our understanding of what is Real and what is True and our place within that bigness. Whatever we call it, the important question is - can it be accomplished in pajamas? Can we discover that specialness of Creation while doing the laundry? (Again, I hope so).
In the stories of Durga, when She appears in that form She makes it very clear that She has always been and that there is nothing that is outside of Her. She appears as Durga to answer the call of the Gods (or whoever is in need). She is not bound to that form but uses it to fulfill a purpose. In some interpretations it's even said that the Gods manifested the body form of Durga through their prayers and through willingly relinquishing the powers that make them Divine. Personally, my interpretation is that they may have imagined the qualities of the Being that they thought they needed, but that Shakti manifested the form Herself to suit the task at hand. Even the imagination of the Gods cannot compare to the creative potential of Shakti or its innate intelligence underlying manifestation. When we commune with Durga we are doing much of the same. We have an imagination of what Durga's presence might be. We have our prayers and our requests. We make offerings to empower that energy in our lives. This is necessary interaction. It is Shakti responding to Shakti, creating resonance that ultimately sets energy in motion that will manifest as something physical. Our relationship with the Infinite creates the finite. Our relationship with Goddess/God influences the world. That's pretty special. And it's happening all the time whether we know it or not, making it the most fundamental, most MUNDANE thing that there is. This relationship of finite beings to the Infinite is literally what makes the world go round. So how is it that we miss seeing it? Where does our attention go if not to that?
I enjoy that in another story, Durga has retreated into the mountains and in order for her to emerge the Gods have to call for her. They spend months (maybe longer) singing her praises and pleading with Her to help them. Specifically Indra (King of the Devas/Lower Gods) is usually highlighted in this. Indra is often said to represent our senses and ego-mind (It believes it is in charge of everything, but really there is so much that is beyond it). When Durga appears She makes a comment about how seemingly silly it is that the Gods only came to Her when they were in dire need. Basically a, "what took you so long to ask for help"? Of course She agrees to battle the current demons threatening the world, but the conversation between the ego-mind and the Infinite is what's interesting. Why do we wait to reach for something that can free us? Why do we insist on struggling for so long? What special circumstances make us "ready" for that reaching?
Navaratri is a celebration. And a ritual. And a special occasion...that happens regularly (twice a year). It is a beautiful excuse to start or continue a relationship with this form of the Infinite and to bring your attention back to how Shakti is already at play in your life. You are immersed in it so deeply that you might forget to see it. Notice when you look in the mirror (with bleary eyes and wild hair) that it is Shakti looking back at you. Remember that the food you eat is the gift of Shakti. Acknowledge that the weather that delights you and frustrates you (when it isn't what you hoped for) is Shakti. If we practice remembering to see Shakti in the mundane then we are never without the support of that relationship. If we "save it for a special occasion," even if that occasion is Navaratri, then we reinforce our separateness and limit the movement of Shakti through our "rules". I challenge you to find the Goddess in all forms. When you see a crosswalk think of Durga's protection. When you come across insects eating garbage to bring waste back into purpose think of Lakshmi's insistence that everything is valuable. When you hear a neighbor's loud music think of Saraswati's appreciation for inner silence in a world that will not stand still. This, I think, is the greatest gift of Durga. She appears in all forms to meet all needs. AS SOON AS WE ASK! If we wait to acknowledge how Shakti could help us, we suffer needlessly. If we can walk in the world with Durga always beside us, our attention on Her, She comes immediately when we have need. Shakti responding to Shakti. She's waiting for your call. Don't wait. Call Her in your pajamas. Every moment becomes special when we see the Divine gazing back at us, filling all the voids in our hearts.
OM Dum Durgeyei Namaha