In My Meditation Today: We keep thinking that the savior is outside us, whether in the form of a partner, an employer, or a coach. What if the second coming or the promised reincarnation of the divine is not an external event? What if reincarnation is an event that occurs when we overcome fear within and confront injustice in the world and say, “ No – Not on Our Watch!”? What if Kali / Durga is manifesting within us and expressing herself every time we recognize a diminishment of our divinity, rest back into our sense of knowing, trust our wisdom, and act based on that knowing? What if Devi is manifesting in the world every time we pick ourselves up after a devastating blow and learn to laugh again?
This post shifts the focus from the Grand Story of the Divine Mother and brings the focus back into our lives, specifically my life. The next three posts pay homage to my grandma, my mom, and my mother-in-law in that order. We have just traveled through a significant myth in which we saw the Divine Mother incarnate again and again to confront evil. As we walked through the myth, I tried to emphasize my belief that the underlying truth in the myth is that the Divine Mother is not an entity outside of us. She is our highest self. She is the part of us that, in the deep, still recesses of our minds, knows that we are all-powerful and that all is well.
We have instances of this truth manifesting around us all the time. We all have situations in our life when we are an incarnation of the divine. It is important to record and honor these moments in our life. It is as important to recognize the light in us as it is to acknowledge our shadow.
Since my Grandmother, my mother and my mother-in-law would never have dreamt of thinking about themselves and their lives in these terms; I am taking it upon myself to do it for them.
Leela: The quiet sleepy bank in a small town in Kerala was bustling with unusual activity for a quiet Saturday afternoon. The men in the office were helping move wooden desks to create a temporary bed. Others were bringing around a wooden screen that typically separated the cashier’s table from the tellers’ desks to create privacy around the bed. A janitor was picking up a bucket to bring in some hot water. A pregnant young woman was standing by the wall; her arms wound tightly around herself as if she was protecting her and her baby from a possible assault and a small, slight woman dressed in white with a huge sandalwood and vermilion spot on her forehead, was shouting out orders and directing all the activity.
The activity came to a sudden halt, and everyone except the little lady dressed in white froze in fear as the bank manager who had stepped out for a leisurely lunch break walked back in the door. Before he could say anything, she said, “ Oh, I am so glad you are back. I hope you do not mind that we are rearranging the bank to create a labor ward. Don’t worry. I have plenty of experience delivering babies and a midwifery certificate to boot. Now that, the bank has decided that it cannot provide maternity leave to pregnant employees, we will need a space to assist them when they go into labor. How do you like the arrangement? We had to get this done now, because, I can see that Mrs. M. is very close to labor and you know, I am seldom wrong about these things.”
“ Now, Leelamma,” the flustered manager said, “You know that I did not mean Mrs. M could not ever take maternity leave. I just did not think she needs to yet. However, I respect your judgment. He turned to the young pregnant woman and said, “ You should have told me! Please go home now. Leelamma, please accompany her home.”
That was how Mrs. M finally was allowed to take the maternity leave she was entitled to after repeated denials of her requests over a period of several days.
The anecdote above is not a made-up story. My Grandmother Leela was the small, slight woman in white. She would probably brush me off as crazy if I had told her that she was Devi Incarnate that day.
I do not think that that was the only instance in her life when she manifested the Divine mother.
She was a Devi Incarnate in the bank that day when she stood up to and fought injustice.
She was Devi Incarnate when she chose to do what she felt she needed to do as a young widow with six children and decided to marry again despite living in a culture where that was unthinkable.
She was Devi Incarnate as she chose to work outside the home in pre-Independence India.
She was Devi Incarnate when the fact that her entire village opted to boycott a wedding in her house because of her marriage did not faze her or indeed stop her from helping those self-same villagers later in their time of need.
She was Devi Incarnate as she sobbed uncontrollably, felt her heartbreak, but had the strength to let her mentally-ill son be admitted to the local psych ward.
She was Devi Incarnate when she found the strength to stand up and take on the responsibility of her young granddaughter (me) and nurse her through her first pregnancy and delivery after the most devastating blow of all – the death of her beloved daughter – my Mom, her rock, in a plane crash.
She was Devi Incarnate when she rose yet again, like a Phoenix from the ashes of the disaster of her mentally ill son’s suicide, and somehow found the strength to laugh and smile again.
As I think back on all the challenges in my grandma’s life and describe how her indomitable spirit rose to face each one, I worry that the post comes across as depressing.
I worry readers might think I am just comforting myself about dismal circumstances and fitting my narrative to her life.
Am I, though? As I recall her courage, her determination to make the best of her circumstances, and her ability to pick herself up, dust herself off, and live another day, am I just putting lipstick on a pig?
I think not.
I see her spirit in my mother, aunt, daughter, and me, and I thank God for her legacy.
I thank my good fortune for vivid examples of seeing Devi Incarnate in her form, squaring her shoulders, planting her feet, and saying, “ Bring it on.”
Granted, the voice that said those words might sometimes have been muted, the shoulders may have occasionally slumped, or the knees buckled, but never once did she lie down and give up and let life run over her.
As women, I, my daughter, my granddaughter, and my nieces have lives that are incomparably better today. We have opportunities and access to lifestyles my grandmother could not have imagined.
Despite that, the need to invoke the divine in us and stand up, feet planted firmly, shoulders squared back, hands on our hips, ready to take on anything that life may throw at us, does not go away. It is, therefore, infinitely comforting to know that we have in our lineage this indomitable spirit. We can draw on these memories as we strive to express our divinity in the world.
Let me end this by reminding you that we all manifest our divinity every time:
- We overcome a fear within, confront an injustice in the world, and say, “ No – Not on Our Watch!”
- We recognize our power, rest back into our sense of knowing, trust our wisdom, and act from it.
- We pick ourselves up after a devastating blow and learn to laugh again.
May you continue manifesting the divine in your life and, most importantly, learn to recognize and acknowledge your divinity.
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