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Lead Me From Darkness to Light

Musings by Veronica Yacco

The teachings tell us that the nature of the material world is to change. Everything is changing. Seasons are turning, the light of the sun is shifting, consciousness is churning. Balance is being redefined, re-imagined. Spring is an exciting time because everything is just coming "awake". As observers we don't know yet what the new leaves will look like or what colors the flowers will be. We can't tell which babies being born will flourish into adulthood and which will experience a life cut short by the needs of Nature. The excitement is that we don't KNOW what the world will be, but we feel the pulse of energy that causes everything to grow and to become. We, as the observers, are waiting for the world to explode into aliveness. But each creature and being knows already where it is heading, what direction leads towards fulfillment. They are already reaching for it, even before there is something to "see" from the outside. We can call it following the inner light, or the inner knowing, but when that sensation has become dull and the mind has become sleepy with habits, where do we turn to become awake again? How do we reconnect to that inner pulse that doesn't require words or direction? Where do we start?

The celebration of Navaratri invites us to bring the energy of the Goddess into our conscious awareness. Shakti is the name for the formless feminine energy principle that manifests as all things and enlivens them. It is the inner pulse that startles us into joy and drives us to seek out life in order to discover fulfillment of who we are. It is the form that consciousness takes to see itself dance and hear itself sing. The forms enliven us through interaction. It's like making shadow puppets on the wall. The form of one's hands can become shapes that appear to be animals or objects, depending on how they are arranged and how they are relating to the light shining upon them. The hands are the same, the light source is the same, yet the shapes that can be made and interpreted and imagined are numerous. In yogic terms we could say that Purusha (absolute awareness) is the light source, Shakti is the hands creating the shapes, the shapes themselves are the manifested world. Everything that is is this play of light and dark.

The other day my 5 year old daughter was making shadow puppets and trying to explain to me what all the shapes were that she was making. Some were very recognizable, but others I had to trust that she could see something in the shape that I could not. And that struck me as a very important thing. In her mind she saw something in those shadows that I couldn't see. She knew what was working its way from inside of her into the outside world, even though it was still being refined enough to be easily shared. She could see it in the shadows. Her shadows had meaning to her that wasn't immediately apparent to me. I gave them different names then her so to me they held a different meaning, a different Truth. Suddenly I had the desire to look at my own shadows, the ones I named a long time ago and have become good at running from/with, as well as the ones that were still just me trying to let something potent from inside find its way out in a way that doesn't look/sound/feel crazy. What if I've been wrong about my shadows all along? What if nothing has been stealing the light? What if the shadows were the light in a form I needed to relate to in order to understand myself? What if my shadows weren't out to get me, but to remind me that there is light?

Durga is the form of the Goddess at the heart of Navaratri. She is typically called on for protection and as the one who destroys evil and kills the demons that threaten the world (our world). We tend to associate the demons with darkness and assume that if they are present, the light is disturbed or lessened in some way. Yet many of the demons in the yogic stories were, at one time, themselves yogis or celestial beings of light. Something happened to make them appear to be demons, to take on that form and that behavior. In these stories, when a demon is killed they are not obliterated as though they don't belong in existence. They are liberated at death from their demonic form and returned to the light that they always were. Balance is returned not because light was somehow "returned" (because it was never lost), but because the relationship of the demon to its own Essence is now clear and accepted. Durga's liberation is like the moment you stop trying to figure out what the shape of the shadow is supposed to be and you turn to see the Source of the light and the dancing hands. It's a moment of realizing that your darkness hasn't caused your light to disappear. The shadows, or the demons, are the call to remember that there is light and that that light is unshakable.

Durga's many forms are the answer to our feelings of lack or void, what we characterize in the shape of demons and give names to in order to try to understand what we are missing. Like puzzle pieces that fill in empty spaces, She takes on many faces to meet our many inner needs and all the ways we have become confused about what we are (by thinking about what we assume we are not). She sees something in our shadows that we cannot. She sees what we are trying to express (often unskillfully) by our shadows and lovingly gives us the answer so that we can clarify our questions- what IS it that we think we are missing? She offers beauty so we can confront our fear of ugliness or rejection. She offers enlightenment so we can be clear about craving and suffering. She offers fierce resolve so that we comprehend surrender and how to repair rather than destroy. She offers us Everything so that we can know that we are Everything. However to know something means we have to engage with it. We have to ask the question. We have to consider what the world is without whatever we are seeking so that we understand its form and purpose. Everything She can offer us we innately already have, but may be unconscious of because it has never been noticed, never tested, never made real.

Durga appears in the stories as a response to the pleas of the Gods who have lost the ability to keep the balance of the world in check. You might think that She manifests just because of that need. Durga's Presence, however, indicates an autonomy that is beyond needs and requests. She does not require anyone or anything to exist. She is the dancing hands of Shakti itself, the shadows playing through the light in all the forms there are. Our prayers to be saved aren't what call Her into Being. She arises immediately into those places that have become voids in us and appear as demons. She is already standing with us watching the shadows dance. Her Presence is universal. She is waiting for us to notice. Our prayers are invitations for the light inside of us to be made real again to our conscious mind. Durga offers us the gift of guiding our "hands" so that the shadows become a clear representation of our relationship to that inner light. Through Her our attention is turned away from what we fear has ruined our chance at happiness, the places in us that are "wrong" or disturbed, every way in which we are convinced that we are lacking. Instead, She brings our attention to what grows out of those shadow forms. Like a butterfly that used to be a caterpillar, your suffering may become compassion and grace. Your lack becomes abundance and gratitude. Your confusion becomes wisdom and trust in the infinite nature of your Self. The exciting thing is that we don't KNOW yet what we will become, what will continue to evolve and flourish through us. But inside we have a pulse, an inner knowing to seek in the direction of fulfillment. We can call it following the inner light. Or we can call it trusting the darkness to lead us to the light that we are. Not sure you believe that? Call on Durga to show you how great the light must be to cast such incredible shadows. See what She shows you about yourself.

When you follow the pulse of awakening energy inside you don't need to know where you are going. Fulfillment can be found right here, as you are, in the process of becoming. Trust in your shadows. Believe in your Light. Start right where you are and see if you can sense that inner pulse that propels you to seek out fulfillment through living. And follow where it leads.

Asato Ma Sad Gamaya

Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya

Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Happy Navaratri

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