In 2013, I set out to a pilgrimage to India, along with around 65 Million people (!!) to the great Kumbha Mela. My intention at the time was two-fold. The first being to know and to understand The Divine Mother. The second, my personal Dharma.
I pocketed two huge books, which despite their material burden were quintessential in deepening my inquiries into my purpose on this planet (dharma) and Divine Mother. These were Swami Rama’s Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita and a version of the Durga Saptashati called In Praise of the Goddess. The Gita brought me insight into myself, and the beloved Durga Saptashati rendition, a little tickle into who SHE is. My daily practice of meditation and mantra wove the two together.
If I were to alchemize my experience and share the essence of the golden nuggets received from this pilgrimage, SHE to me became the ONE and the multiplied FORCE, that accepted me and all of the pain, shame, guilt and self-hatred I carried. I understood to my bones, guided into understanding by a loving force greater than me, that ACCEPTING what I felt as nasty inside of me, was the only gateway to knowing beauty and abundance. And when what is being held is given too much mental power, possibly even lifetimes of power as in my case, a greater heart-felt FORCE needs to transform the negative charge. It is truly the only path for change.
For me, I needed a Mother to accept me and to love me in all of my supposed filth. I remember I had a recurring stye in my eye, that seemed to magnify how ugly I felt inside. It also was a painful reminder that no matter how hard I tried to see and feel the beauty around me, I mostly saw pain and suffering. At the time, estranged from my biological mother to a large degree, I didn’t realize what letting the presence of a Divine Mother in could really do. I also didn’t realize what immersing myself in what millions of people consider as the Divine Mother (the sacred Ganges River) could really do. I was in truth, a sceptical child of agnosticism + atheism and my mind didn’t really believe in sublime forces. Yet my heart wanted me to. I’ve had too many sublime experiences in this life it said to me, that now was the time to BELIEVE in them.
So. The particular phenomenon I experienced, expounded in the text I mentioned above, calls these forces (also known as shakti or yoginis) aspects of the Divine Mother: Durga (SHE who welcomes and gives a little flick with her eyebrows to destroy the nasty) and Lakshmi (SHE who is the essence of feeling + attracting health, wholeness, beauty and grace.) I realized….one cannot get to Lakshmi (and the essences SHE represents) if one needs the assistance of Durga first. Stepping stones of the Goddess.
The beauty of being able to pilgrimage to India is that there are places and pockets of condensed energy that when one enters into and especially with a humble heart filled with prayer or intention, the forces that support you are activated. If you leave space to meditate or do japa in these sacred places, you also receive the wisdom that accompanies these forces, and insight that blasts straight to your soul.
In this, my first dip in Maa Gangha, the forces that comprised HER (as yogini Gangaji) took huge layers from me, these same nasty feelings embedded in my tissues that were the gifts of my ancestors. The feeling of being preyed upon as well as feelings of being a predator, and the torrential tears of the pain of the collective consciousness. Eww. (heads up, boobies are coming)
To have been unburdened by one dip in the confluence of sacred rivers called the Sangham, in the dark hour before sunrise during an auspicious moon time, was one of the most profound positive experiences I have felt in this lifetime. I felt truly clean for the first time. Not fully healed exactly, but a cleaner slate to work with, and now a bit more faith that I am not alone. Having been a magnet to molestation since somewhere around the age of 3, this was big.
Fast forward to now. I have just returned from the Kumbha Mela again. Years of dedicated practice to my own personal healing and the healing of the collective wound of HER suppression was my main focus to be thrown into the fire for release + transformation. Our practice was called Rudra Yaga, and dedicated to healing life in all forms, at every level, through meditation and ritual fire offerings.
I had been acquiring tools for the 6 years in between Melas, to empower and heal the voices and hearts of my students of The Wild Temple as well as to help shift the lens to compassion and forgiveness for what we consider to be predator, manipulator and the power hungry demon. Each year, facing a new battle not just with my work- which I have jumped through all kinds of obstacles in my full time job of running a school + retreats- but also battling 2 life threatening pathogenic illnesses, stress related illness + closing the gap of estrangement between my biological mother and myself, a 37 year old wound. 6 years of BOOM! nailed it, not too shabby. ❤️
And I didn’t do it alone.
The Divine Mother has been with me the whole time. Like really, I’m not just saying this to say this. I feel HER quite often- mostly when I am still, quiet, aware and relaxed. Almost never, when I feel I Am The Doer.
Still always a student, and in no way claiming to fully understand HER- I do however, see and understand the Divine Mother in a very rich, very pervasive, new light. SHE is everything. She is the fragrance of flowers, the green pulsation of life emitted so joyously when we water our plants or cook at home. SHE is the raging waters that destroy roads and the fires that burn us down to dust. SHE is both birdsong and shit, the dualities of life and when we propitiate HER we can do so in parcels…we can do so with baby steps and small bites, big wondrous eyes taking it all in.
This time at Kumbha Mela, we concluded practices that were started decades ago. A part of a group of Himalayan Sage practitioners, I have been so blessed to carry the torch of a living tradition to initiate our first Sri Vidya Shrine in India in 2013, and the one being consecrated in the states this summer of 2019 in Pennsylvania. I held it strong as meditator and practitioner for our year long meditation and then our three year long meditation, even bringing my students on yoga + meditation retreats to the places of Shakti where SHE and the sages of our tradition pulse strong.
I share all of this, first to give a small window into the work I have been doing, into the importance of Pilgrimage and into the promise that we are not alone. But secondly, to reveal that this is now a new beginning. We are being asked at every level to turn inwards and heal ourselves, to shine the light on our personal dysfunctions so that they end with us, not to be passed down to our children and grandchildren. In this new beginning there is room for seekers of all shapes and sizes, who feel somewhere in their hearts that there is more to life than what the brain can fathom, yet are not sure where to begin, to tap in. Let’s open the door, find the map that suits you and a key to get inside.
I am still acclimating from this last trip to the Motherland. And I am so grateful to be home. The work has been hard and deep, but worth every drop. It is my prayer to you, reading this or not, that you hear the call. It is time to learn how to get still, to turn inwards and to call in the means that supports you in finding your path, your purpose and the forces that will support you in getting there. Perhaps you too, will be touched by a force of love that shifts you from the inside out, one that can only be described as Mother.
Much love, brooke
All candid photos by the photographic muse DJ Pierce.