Goddess Series Part IV: Kali, the Goddess of Transformation
Singing to the Goddess Kali as we let go of our fears and challenges, reverently giving our offerings to the fire, on another bright full moon night. Sitting together in our ceremonial space, aptly named the "Kale Cave" on this cool evening, we take our time to share reflections of the past cycle together, the moments of growth, the difficulties, the joys and the sorrows as the flames flicker and dance in front of us.
We do this quite often at The Yoga Forest; coming together to share and celebrate with the lunar energies of the universe. While the New Moon offers us a time for planting seeds of intention and manifestation, the Full Moon allows us to reflect upon letting go, releasing that which no longer serves us; old patterns and beliefs and an opportunity for resetting the script.
As I looked upon my offering of flowers and forest objects, I felt it was a pivotal moment for me this time. With countless Full Moon Ceremonies behind me, the letting go process a favorite of mine, I knew this particular one was monumental for my own transformation. I chanted to Kali repeatedly, asking for her guidance, her fierce love to help me take the steps for full release.
Kali is portrayed as the fiercest of the Hindu Goddesses; her eyes are red with intoxication, and in absolute rage, her hair is disheveled, small fangs sometimes protrude out of her mouth and her tongue is lolling. She is often depicted naked which symbolizes her being beyond all illusion as she is pure being-consciousness-bliss, while standing or dancing on a seemingly dead Shiva, her dark color contrasting with his white covering of cremation ashes.
he is always shown as dark, usually blue or black, representing the void state, where all else falls away; she has no permanent qualities—she will continue to exist even when the universe ends. It is therefore believed that the concepts of color, light, good, bad do not apply to her—she is the pure, un-manifested energy.
My own journey over the last few months had been a process of inner revolution, a personal transformation of my own psyche as I recognized the need for many old structures to be swept away. Two years after the opening of The Yoga Forest, a Conscious Living Retreat and Transformational Learning Center, I had created a successful business with beautiful external structures set into majestic natural beauty, yet we faced a challenging community environment due to a lack of clear systems and well built internal structures. So much of my energy had been spent creating the external retreat space, yet I could now clearly see that the real work still lay ahead, with the harmonization of the internal operations within the community.
A combination of Goddess energy had blessed the journey thus far; Lakshmi’s heart centered flourishing of abundance and Durga’s warrior style leadership had enabled me to arrive to a point where I could now recognize the need for a new approach, and the dramatic transformation of leadership required for the sustainability of our community. I needed to let go of control. It was time for the destruction of the “I”, the “me” and the “mine” when it came to The Yoga Forest. Instead, I needed to learn to co-create the “We” that would empower people within the community, and eventually free myself from it also. It was time to call in Kali.
The severed head that hangs in Kali's hand is a symbol of the Ego and the bloody sword which she is holding in another represents Divine Knowledge. Kali is understood to be a protector of humanity; she has the power to destroy all negativity and ego with her sword. Ultimately, the ego must be slain by Divine Knowledge in order for us to attain Liberation. And this is what I felt I was facing. I needed to understand empowered leadership. It was time to break down the existing pyramid structure of management, which was causing a bottle neck of information, frustration for staff and for myself with constant knockings at my door and a multitude of questions as communication was not free flowing. I needed to learn how to empower the people more than myself.
I had to learn to ask for help. This retreat community had begun with three people and within two years exploded into a much bigger project with around 10 resident staff, 20 local staff and up to 25 guests. It was now beyond my capacity and I humbly asked close friend and Kula Collective brother Zachary Towne-Smith of Caracol Consulting for his professional help in beginning a Creative Community Envisioning process with us.
Together, first with the management council, and then with the entire team, we began to assess the challenges we were facing at The Yoga Forest. We discovered many issues that were linked by several key areas; a lack of flow of communication and access to information, lack of cohesion between staff and no central intentions that held us together. We identified our main challenge to be that we had no common strategy or clear guidelines that enable collaborators to work and play interdependently toward a shared community vision.
After months of preparing my inner psyche for this process, I was excited that we were beginning to do the work together, and I felt confident with Zach’s leadership and approach to help us solutionize our issues. We decided that our solution should tackle the challenge head on with rude curiosity and develop clarity in strategies and guidelines within the community.
We wanted clear picture transparency and prosperity beyond ourselves. We dreamt and envisioned life at The Yoga Forest without our present challenge and journaled and reflected in circle what each of us saw within our visions. I felt completely overwhelmed by the work that I saw ahead on top of my already completely full work schedule, but I had faith that we were beginning a new process that would empower us. So I chanted to Kali for extended periods whenever I could.
Kali wears a necklace of skulls representing the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and the liberating power of mantra. It is often said that you should “Never invoke the name Kali if you wish to remain the same”. I wished for clarity and peace. I humbly asked Kali for a drastic shift in perception that would allow us to create autonomy and stability, that would value and empower everyone within the community. I repeatedly chanted her invocational mantra - Om Aim Hrim Krim Chamundayei Vicche Swaha – and observed as things shifted and really did not remain the same.
We began the work of establishing a clear Vision, Mission and Community Guidelines. This co-creation was written on the wall, allowing our intentions to be public and accessible to all, within our handbooks, as well a public Community Living page on our website, so that even before people join us in community they can understand our intentions for living, playing and working together. This process has had a profound effect of creating cohesion for the community, perhaps its not something that you can see, but it is something that we can feel at the forest.
I am learning how to listen, to ask for feedback, and to allow people to share and be heard. And I am actually taking their considerations onboard. I may sometimes think I know better based on my experience, but I now recognize that I must honor people’s experience of what is, especially what is working and what is not.
Together ‘we’ can know better, many minds simply mean more creative ideas and solutions. And the real joy is in the co-creation. It means I am no longer asking people to obey and enforce my rules, but we are learning to co-create the guidelines that together, we will hold one another accountable to.
My role is shifting. For me it is an inner revolution of letting go of old ways. True leadership to me now means conscious facilitation and creating space for the “we”. I find myself inspired to try new ways and feel ready to look at how we find balance between conscious business and community living; how the two balance and provide for each other when we co-create. Shifting the paradigm, we explore new strategies for business, work and play to harmonize, putting the needs of the people first.
In spite of her seemingly terrible form, where she is seen as a great protector, Kali Ma, Mother Kali is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses, as she is regarded by her devotees as the Mother of the whole Universe. According to Ramakrishna;
My Mother is the principle of consciousness. She is Akhanda Satchidananda; indivisible Reality, Awareness, and Bliss. The night sky between the stars is perfectly black.
The waters of the ocean depths are the same; The infinite is always mysteriously dark. This inebriating darkness is my beloved Kali.
Honoring MahaKali, the Divine Mother as the force of transformation behind spiritual awakening, I offer my bundle of flowers to the fire under the magical Full Moon. I know the fierce love and ecstasy Kali offers us can set us free. Burn it all away, burn it all away. She burns away everything other than our true essence, that which cannot be destroyed, the eternal Truth and Spirit within. Om Namo Kali Kali Om Namo. Look to your challenges as opportunities for growth and allow drastic shifts in consciousness. Don’t be afraid to call her in, but know that an inner revolution may indeed follow, life may never be the same again.
Guiding people from all over the world to devote time to personal transformation at The Yoga Forest, the Conscious Living Retreat she founded in 2009, Saraswatīwholeheartedly offers herself through the path of devotion; offering kirtan, ceremonies, workshops, retreats and trainings with yoga, breath work, sound healing, singing circles, dance, satsang & sharing circles. Her dedication to creating and holding a safe space allows the veils to fall away, inspiring spontaneous expression and the authentic embodiment of the Truth - all is Love.
Weaving together her passion for yoga, nature and the elements, her view of sustainable green living and mindfulness practice fuse into a work of deep green yoga.