Saraswati: Guiding us into our Intuition

SaraswatiContinuing my journey into Sally Kempton’s Awakening Shakti, I spent the last month working with the goddess Saraswati. She is known as the goddess of language, insight and sound. She is evoked by practitioners for work with music and mantra, but she can also offer us profound insight and connect to our own intuition. If you’re working with a question in your life right now that you’re having trouble finding clarity on, consider invoking Saraswati to guide you. She offers the following practice:

Write down the question and read it through a few times. Then close your eyes and repeat the mantra to Saraswati nine times:

Aum aim hrim saraswatyai namaha
ohm ai-eem hreem suh-rah-swah-tyai nuh-muh-huh

Ask inwardly for the answer to your question. Then imagine the form of Saraswati. See her as a luminous figure, seated on her vehicle the swan. See a stringed instrument in her hands and see white light emanating from her figure. Breathe with the sense that you are breathing together and with each exhalation visualize your question flowing to her. As you inhale, allow her knowing to flow into your mind.

Now begin to write. Don’t censor, simply let the words flow out (punctuation and spelling are not important). Write until there is nothing left. Read over what you’ve written and then ask “Is there anything more?” and take down whatever arises.

Kali: Goddess of Re-Birth: Destruction as a Birthing Process

KaliI’ve been continuing on my journey of Sally Kempton’s book Awakening Shakti. This past month saw my exploration of the next chapter of the book, the goddess Kali. Kali is an intimidating figure in hindu mythology. She is often depicted with a ring of skulls around her neck, her tongue dripping blood. A force to be reckoned with, she offers us the opportunity of destruction of old ways of being, thinking and outdated modes of behavior that no longer serve us. She is often known as a destroyer, but her destruction is akin to the energy of childbirth. When she destroys things, it is through their death that the new can be born.

I will readily admit that work with Kali is intense. As soon as I began chanting to her, behavior patterns that had lay dormant in my life began to rise up, ready to be faced head on and dealt with. While uncomfortable, her strong motherly insistence invited me to look at things in my life that were no longer serving me and that I was more than ready to let go of. Below is the chant Sally offers as a way to work with Kali’s energy. Ready to cleanse? Ready to let go? Start chanting:

Aum aim hrim klim chamundaye viche svaha
ohm aim hreem kleem chah-mun-dah-yey vich-ey swah-hah

Aum: the primordial sound
Aim: the seed of wisdom
Hrim: creative manifestation
Klim: transformative power
Chamundaye: a name for Kali as the destroyer of the “demons” of ignorance and duality
Viche: cut (as in cutting the bonds of ignorance and ego)
Svaha: the mantra that signifies offering

Embracing the Goddess: Accessing the Abundance of Lakshmi

In my last post, I spoke about Sally Kempton’s new book Awakening Shakti. I had heard a Sound’s True podcast, Invoking the Goddess, where she introduced the material and I was excited to see what the book had to offer. In the previous post, I offered the first goddess in the book, Durga, and the energy of protection she offers when working with her. For me, the remainder of May and June saw the exploration of a new goddess, Lakshmi.

Often known as the goddess of beauty and abundance, Lakshmi is often evoked for matters of money, love and good health. Because of her connection with more worldly desires, I found myself reluctant to work with Lakshmi. However, when I began to explore Lakshmi more deeply through Sally’s work, I found there were other compelling reasons to work with Lakshmi. She lists the following reasons to evoke Lakshmi:

  • Being content with what you have.Lakshmi
  • Feeling good about yourself.
  • Allowing yourself to receive.
  • Experiencing beauty in your life.

To invoke Lakshmi, Sally recommends the
following mantra:

 Aum shrim maha lakshmyai namah
[Ohm shreem muh-hah luhk-shmyai nuh-muh]
“Om, I offer salutations to the great goddess of good fortune.”

Invoking the Goddess: The Power of Durga

DurgaFive months ago, I picked up Sally Kempton’s new book Awakening Shakti. I had heard a Sound’s True podcast, Invoking the Goddess, where she introduced the material and I was excited to see what the book had to offer. I was excited to dive into some practices to explore the pantheon of Hindu goddesses in that way seemed accessible and pertinent to my life experience. When I first picked up this book, I had to make a commitment to myself to read it slowly. Through the book she has 13 chapters that focus on 13 different goddesses and I truly wanted to take the opportunity to explore each one of the goddesses for at least one month.

I spent the month of April and part of May with the goddess Durga. I have always felt a strong resonance with this fierce goddess, often pictured riding her lion mount. Along with Kali, I have always thought of Durga as one of the more fierce goddesses. She is often depicted with a numerous assortments of weapons and her mythology speaks of her slaying armies of demons.

When I started working with Durga, I was exploring setting boundaries in my personal life and how I could strongly ask for what I wanted to, while still being compassionate to the experience of those I was interacting with. Durga became a model for that fierce compassion. Durga is often associated with the energy of protection and is known not only for her strength, but also for her firm mothering energy.

I started working with Durga through many of the practices Sally offers in her book and also committed to chanting to Durga for that 1.5 month period. Sally offers this simple Durga chant, to invoke the goddess’ energy:

Aum dum durgaye namaha

[Ohm doom Door-gai-yey nuh-mu-hu]

“Om and Salutations to that feminine energy which protects from all manner of negative influences.” 

If you’re feeling the need for protection and boundaries in your life, I recommend making the commitment to explore this mantra for the next month. Below is a link to an excellent article written by Sally about working with Goddess Power. She brings a great deal of insight to Durga and Lakshmi in her article,  Goddess Power.

The Throat Chakra: Finding Your Voice

With all this talk of sound I felt it would be important to move into the throat, the 5th chakra, Vissuddha Chakra:

Color: Cobalt Blue
Seed Syllable: HAM
Element: Ether
Rules: Thyroid, jaw, neck, mouth, throat, tongue, larynx
Planet: Mercury

Because the 5th chakra is located in the throat and governs higher communication, speaking, hearing and listening, it helps us to understand our inner truth and convey it with our voice to the outside world. The sense for the 5th chakra is hearing. Chanting, singing, speaking, reading aloud are all good for the 5th chakra. The vibrations of all these things affect the body down to the cellular level.

The element for the 5th chakra is ether/space. It is connected to the cosmos, which consists of these elements. Deficient energy in the 5th chakra can cause neck and shoulder problems, jaw disorders, throat problems, an under active thyroid and a fear of speaking.

On the other hand, excessive energy in the 5th chakra can cause hearing problems, inability to listen, excessive talking and an overactive thyroid.

Here are some yogic suggestions to work with the throat chakra:

Asana
– Matsyasana (fish pose)
– Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
– Setu Bhanda Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
– Neck Stretches

Pranayama
– Ujjayi (conqueror breath)

Bhandas
– Jalandhara Bhanda

Mantra
All kinds of mantra and chanting are excellent for releasing the throat chakra.

October’s Mantra: So Hum

So Hum
I am that.

This mantra helps us to move beyond the limits of our personal existence and recognize ourselves are part of all things. It is a simple mantra that can become a very profound mantra and meditation practice. Below is a meditation technique using the mantra.

Find a comfortable seat for meditation (you can use a bolster or blanket or can also sit in a chair with the spine erect). Close your eyes and find the breath. Start to connect with the length of the spine and feel the breath move up the spine on the inhale and down the spine on the exhale.

As the breath starts to lengthen and deepen start to chant “So” silently to yourself as you inhale and “Hum” as you exhale. Feel the breath move in waves through the body. Feel the entire length of the inhale take you through the sound of “So” and the entire length of your exhale take you through “Hum.”  Let the mind become completely absorbed in the mantra and in the breath. If thought does arise, return to your inhale and exhale and begin the mantra again.

It can be helpful to set a timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes when you first begin this practice. Then as you grow more comfortable you will find the mind will be less likely to wander off during the practice and you will find less need for the timer.

To close the practice, complete the exhale of “Hum” and return to a normal breath and quiet mind. Draw the hands to the heart center in anjali mudra (prayer pose). You can close with a mantra, the sound of om or perhaps a prayer or intention.