I have a story for you. Last night, I was up late writing another Navaratri post. I was tired, but I had promised myself I would get the post done, that it was part of my practice, my offering to Durga. I felt obligated to do it and it didn't matter that I would be tired the next day. That's how offerings are right? What service is? Being tired for the sake of what you care you about. To become tired to prove how much you care. So I worked hard on the post and was just about finished and ready to publish when an error message popped up on my screen. Wix encountered a technical difficulty and needed to refresh. There was no option, but to hit the refresh button. So I did. Box pops up to inform me that my unsaved progress might be lost. Did I want to continue? Well, there was nothing else I could do, so yes (duh), and I hit the button. The page refreshes and every word I had written was gone. I hadn't noticed that the entire time I was writing, the auto-save function wasn't working. I hadn't noticed and I hadn't even looked. I was just focused on getting the post done so I could go to bed satisfied with myself instead of disappointed. After a moment of shock, I had no choice but to laugh and say, "I guess Durga wants me to just go to bed." So I did. The end.
This is what it's like to pray. This is what it's like to serve. This is what it's like to invite the energy of Shakti into yourself and let it play out what you need, to teach you how to be kind to yourself. What is funny is that earlier in the day I had been doing some contemplation with myself and what my mind was telling me was that things would be easier if I just stopped caring about what didn't matter. Took me a minute after that thought to gather all my arguments. How was I supposed to be able to tell which things "mattered" and which ones didn't? If I was going just for what I felt like doing, that distinction would be hugely different than if I was considering the impact of what the task might be for the rest of my life or for someone else. Who got to decide the criteria of what mattered? Was I just not supposed to care about anything? I had no clear answer, but I let it sit in my mind as something to come back to. Fast forward to the moment of completing a task and having the results pulled out from under me before I could take credit for it- I realized something. What I was wrestling with wasn't about which tasks I should prioritize or what I should take off of my plate. I was struggling with the part of me that is obsessed with and terrified of failure. The pieces of my mind that were asking to be let go were the ones that were convinced that it was awful if I didn't get that post done that night. That it was a failure on my part and a disrespect to the energy that I was dedicating the post to. That you would be disappointed in me- I would be disappointed in me. It didn't matter that the energy behind the action had become obligation, that it had become about me and my feelings of satisfaction instead of truly meditating on Durga. My mind was fixated and that's what created the stress, the disregard for my own wellbeing, and the co-opting of my spiritual practice as an excuse to perpetuate a pattern of thinking/behaving that was hurting me (obviously this is not the first time I've done this). Durga's blessing was to erase all the fruits of my effort so that all that was left was me and the knowledge that I tried, that I cared enough to try. It was a powerful moment of teaching for me. Through no fault of my own, things had simply not worked out. I had done what I promised and it still didn't work out. Svaha (so it is). Durga had a different idea of what was necessary in that moment. My satisfaction wasn't what I needed most, even though it was what I wanted. What I was given was a chance to let go, to accept circumstances as they were, and to recognize how ok it was, how ok I was. A powerful moment to decide not to be disappointed or angry at the internet for getting in my way. Instead I remembered that when we offer something up, it is no longer ours. I offered that post to Durga and she choose to erase those thoughts and the energy that was behind them. The moment I let go of what I had done and what I had hoped for, I felt my mind relax. It was time to go to sleep, to rest. That was the best way I could serve. I have to say that my post last night was pretty good. I liked it. But I don't mourn its disappearance. I like this one better. This one is truly my reflection on how Durga moves through us when we invite her it. This is for Her. And for you.
When we pray, when we serve, when we ask for guidance or blessings from the Divine, we open a door in ourselves to be moved. It is no longer fully our decision what should or should not happen or what we do next. We begin to accept the world around us as it is and notice all the things we CAN do (or could do) instead of fixating on only what we want to do. Our actions are not proof of devotion, they become an outpouring of our desire to be of benefit, to lovingly relate to the world around us because we have tapped in (even if only a little) to the source of love within us. So we don't become tired. Well, maybe we do if the tasks are challenging. But we don't become fatigued in our hearts or lose hope in our efforts. One of the most fundamental teachings of yoga is to be willing to act over and over again and to give up the fruits of those actions, to not worry about what will or won't come because of them (or because of you). We are told that what really connects us to the world is not what we do, but how we are able to perceive the Being that we are and to allow that to radiate out in all ways- our words, our thoughts, our prayers, and yes, our actions. But the cosmic energy responds to what you hold inside yourself more immediately and powerfully than anything that you do outside. So we keep opening the door inside to seek out that Source of caring and to let action flow from there. We don't have to be in charge of what comes and what goes- we call that surrender (Ishvara pranidhana if you want to get fancy). And we don't have to stay in that pattern of thinking badly about ourselves because our efforts didn't manifest what we thought we wanted, that we can't take credit for the caring we put into our life, that maybe no one else will every know how much we really care, how much we are trying. Durga knows. She sees you. And so do I.
Try not to decide what you should do to honor Durga (or any other being in your life). Feel how much you love that being and let action flow from there. It may be simple, it may be quiet, it may only be known by you and God. But your caring will radiate from you and that love will find its way back to you in ways you would never have looked for. So keep your eyes open. Keep your heart open. Keep inviting in whatever energy of Love you feel called to and let it MOVE you. And I will say to stop caring about what doesn't matter- the results. Your effort is enough. Your caring is enough. Your willingness to open yourself again and again to learning and noticing and loving is ENOUGH. You are never a disappointment.
Practice admitting to yourself what really matters to you that you don't make time for. Practice making your relationship to God, or Nature, or whatever you call it, something that it real and moving in you all the time. Practice letting go of how things are happening and not anticipating what might come next. Practice getting rest- for your body and for your mind. Practice praying for nothing else but to know yourself. Durga is protection and She is invincible. With Her you cannot fail, no matter what you do, no matter what happens. Celebrate your effort and your caring- it is what moves the world and what calls Durga into it. You are the embodiment of Her Love. Radiate!
OM shanti, shanti, shanti