Do you find yourself asking “what day is it?” more frequently than normal? Yeah, me too. It feels like it’s irrelevant as to whether it’s Wednesday or Saturday- especially if key factors in your life (like your job, your stability, daily habits, connection with others etc.) have been impacted by COVID-19. This week we are studying Kali, the goddess of death and time. She is typically depicted as a ferocious goddess with blood coming out of her mouth and a necklace of human heads hanging from her neck, and yet she is also beloved as a great maternal figure- so how can that be?
Kali fiercely tears into us to challenge our fears of death and our notions of time.
“Kali sadhana (spiritual practice) enables deep inquiry into time, showing us that the present moment isn’t located on the linear timeline at all. The upward movement of kundalini is symbolic of the vertical leap out of linear time and freedom from the universal conundrum of all living creatures, the fear of death. Once we realize the I-self that is born in the cemetary of time is not who we really are, Kali’s fearsome imagery turns into a benevolent one. She lovingly leads us to the vantage point where the past, present and future occur only now.” – Shakti Rising by Kavitha M. Chinnayian, MD
I’ve recently taken to keeping my phone in my garage (which the book Digital Minimalism outlines the top reason people check their phones is for the time, and then they get sucked into everything else) , wearing a non-smart watch (which was surprisingly hard to find) and significantly limiting my screen time and exposure to superfluous news sources (aka, I read the news, but try not to plunge down the scroll troll cave). What’s become fascinating to me as when I suspend my use of my phone and my interaction with media my awareness of time begins to blur. I’ve been able to “enjoy” the present more and I’m less concerned with ‘what’s next’. I put “enjoy” in quotation marks because often sitting with the present is shockingly painful. Not having something to look forward to or distract me has unearthed the reality that I’m probably only present 2% of my life (and that’s usually 10 minutes of my daily yoga practice). This relationship with time is quite disorienting, but also deeply liberating…
Don’t get me wrong. We need timelines to function in our current society. I wear a watch because I still have meetings to attend, kids to pick up and dinner to make.. but becoming less associated with it and being more alive in this moment has given me permission to not worry so much about what’s next. Maybe that’s part of my privilege? I don’t know, I’m still looking into that.
Another part of Kali that often disorients practitioners is her ferocity. She is, after all, covered in dead body parts… but shit if we aren’t always surrounded by death and destruction?! It’s omnipresent, especially if you sit in nature for a little while. So this image of her ferocity has started to bring me comfort over the years because in my opinion, it’s honest. Everything is food. No matter how much I resist it. I too, in no timeline of my own choosing, will become food (if I’m not already, being eaten up by the system, the toxicity, etc. but I DIGRESS).
Beautiful Staraya shared this poem with me the other day and it broke my heart wide open to this concept of ferocity and death, and the pure necessity- maybe even beauty in it:
It seems we have made pain
some kind of mistake,
like having it
is somehow wrong.
Don’t let them fool you—
pain is a part of things.
But remember, dear Ellie,
the compost down in the field:
if the rank and dank and dark
are handled well, not merely discarded,
but turned and known and honored,
they one day come to beds of rich earth
home even to the most delicate rose.
God comes to you disguised as your life.
Blessings often arrive as trouble.
In French, the word blesser means to wound
and relates to the Old English bletsian—
to sprinkle with blood.
And in Sanskrit there is a phrase,
a phrase to carry with you
wherever you go:
everything is food.
Every last thing.
So I’m not sure if this week I’m going to arrive at a conclusion. This is a HUGE topic. Kali is a major force to reckon with… but perhaps our greatest struggle- that with time and death- when confronted head on might be our window to liberation…? I’m going to get curious about it all week on my mat, will I see you there?