Musings by Veronica Yacco
Durga is powerful transformation. Lakshmi is immersive participation in the world's dance. Saraswati is stillness. I think our minds are naturally wary of stillness. We like distraction. We like non-activity. I'm not sure most of us like stillness. Even when we create quiet around us or reach for stillness inside, what we are pleased with is the activity of searching for the stillness, not necessarily finding it. Maybe we touch it for just an instant, maybe we just keep looking and enjoy the mind's more peaceful wanderings (not a bad thing). But when faced with true stillness, do we allow our thinking to fully dissolve or do we hover on the edge, clinging to the activity of meditating? I wonder what would happen if stillness was not considered an absence of something in our minds, but if we knew it to be a true place of rest, the true home that we come from. If we remember that coming to stillness is not a new discovery or achievement, but simply coming home to rest, maybe we can get past that moment of being afraid to let go of thinking our way through the world. Maybe we can put down the whole weight of having an outer self and an inner Self and just REST.
Saraswati is the Goddess form that brings us into direct connection and contact with the Self. She is the place through which Source energy flows into consciousness and guides how consciousness expresses itself. We are enamored with the ways in which that energy flows as music, poetry, ecstatic experiences of openness, and spiritual awakening. We love all the ways that the mind can be transported to states beyond the mundane "waking" world we are used to. We love the results of Saraswati's flow when it is moving through our lives. But the Source of the flow? Do we reach for it for ourselves? Or do we forever look to another greater vessel to channel that Grace on our behalf? In Saraswati, we become conscious of the fact that WE are the vessels for Grace to flow. In Her we are brought out of the dancing expression of the world and into the still point of Being. Saraswati's teachings take us from the inter-connectedness with the world of Lakshmi into the absorption of the Self which takes us beyond the world. She is the reminder that at the end of the day, the end of the party, the end of the journey, there is only one home to return to and that cannot be found outside of your own consciousness. She reminds us to come home and experience the rest that renews our interest and enjoyment of the world outside. But in order to get to that deep rest, we have to walk away from the world outside. We have to follow the path of bliss back to where it flows from if we are going to enjoy it fully, without conditions.
Saraswati is solitary. Durga is solitary as well, meaning She appears with no male consort, but in Her case She carries all possible company within Herself. She is not associated with any one aspect of existence, but all of them. So, Her singularity is by design, not necessarily by choice. Saraswati is alone by choice. In one of Her classic origin stories She is originally married to Brahma, God of Creation, but because She does not fulfill the social role that is expected of Her (because it doesn't interest Her) they are divorced. By all accounts, this doesn't bother Saraswati at all. To live an inauthentic life is ridiculous to Her. Why would She spend time and energy pretending to be interested in aspects of the world that are fleeting and don't hold meaning for Her? She simply devotes Herself to Her own artistic endeavors, study, and spiritual practice. Through that She has everything She needs. Of course, as embodied humans, there is no expectation that we are supposed to live as She does. Each of us has a unique nature that draws us to certain roles and ways of acting in the world. And we are meant to follow that inner knowing and live by our nature (because an inauthentic life would be ridiculous right?). However, the willingness to separate ourselves from the busy-ness of the world and to remain focused on what has lasting importance to our deeper self is Saraswati's gift. How many times have you come home exhausted from the day, only to run to bed already anxious about what the next day has in store? What happens when you turn your attention away from so much activity? Does the world fall apart? Do you truly miss out on something important? Or are you simply less busy? And does being less busy scare you? What do you do with that nervousness that you might be missing something if you are not constantly engaged with activity (asking for a friend)?
The willingness to step away from what we consider our obligations to the outside world gives us a real chance to focus with equal depth on the inner world. After a busy day, when you finally return home and close the door and the outside world is...outside, there's a relaxation that can happen (if we soften into it). The mind can shift from managing reactions to actually observing itself or, with practice, the state of wholeness (pronounced bliss) that has been quietly humming beneath all of the other activity. But, like Saraswati, we have to make a choice to shift our focus. We have to move inward on purpose if we are to truly understand what's behind the veil of our mind. When Saraswati retreats from interaction She is not shutting the world out or avoiding anything. She's just "staying home," absorbed in that awareness of the Self. And we can do that too. It's possible to be in the world, enjoying living, and also to be firmly aware of that state of bliss. We just aren't used to dividing our attention in that way. So Saraswati asks us to take a step back, let some of the spinning plates fall, realize we cannot forever "keep up," and return to ourselves to get some rest. Sounds more pleasant than the call to constantly elevate your consciousness and try to figure out how to make stillness happen doesn't it? It's difficult to remember that the spiritual path, at least in the yogic perspective, is for Self-realization. It's for YOU. And yet, it can sometimes feel like we are doing it for someone or something else's benefit. It can feel like we are asked to give up the only "self" we've ever known for a better (?) one. To remember that the Self we are trying to make connection with is already within us is the practice. To remember that all we are trying to do is to go home is the practice. We aren't abandoning anything. We're not really leaving anything. It's all still there. But instead of the world being something outside that pulls us into its reality, demanding that we react to it or conform, we can feel it from the center of our own inner reality, sure of who we are and undisturbed (at our core) by what we encounter. We are able to always be home in that quiet stillness, absorbed in the Self, and to have the world be a place where we are a joyful visitor, here to see the sights and ride the rides. And then we return fully home, enriched by the play, but content to just be. The world does not give us the Self. The Self is its own spark of consciousness that does not need the world to be, but engages with the world to create the multi-faceted experience of being.
Durga's energy can be intense, as it is meant to be for its purpose. Lakshmi's energy is alluring and engaging, as it is meant to be for its purpose. Saraswati's energy is powerful, but quieter, as it is meant to be for its purpose. In this final phase of Navaratri, Saraswati quietly calls us back to an inner solitude. She ignites our desire to go inward and to be immersed in the bliss that gives rise to the world rather than the world itself, to be in the Source rather than the reflection. She calls us home and reminds us not to forget our keys if we decide to leave again (don't forget your mantra). So can you make time for this inner world? Can you actually dedicate yourself to practicing to find your Self, not to just make it easier to get through your life? Can you walk away from who you are sure the world demands that you be and re-build your life as who you are in the deep quiet of yourself? Saraswati is the guide, the inspiration, and the desire to know what is beyond what you think you know. She is the flow of bliss that tethers us to the Self in its forever unconditioned state. She is the way home.