The Goddess Within

Not only Hinduism, but many cultures have had a goddess figure in their past, Venus, Isis, Ishtar, Durga.  It is easy to look at those figures as belonging to the past, a primeval need for a mother figure, a worship of the primitive female energy as separate and distinct from the male energy which was deemed to be more serene and represented consciousness and intellect. After all, what do these goddess figures have to do with our lives today, when gender roles have become nearly indistinct and we all do everything equally well? Women are not only mothers, they are thinkers, scientists, they do battle, work alongside men in every profession and every arena.  Men have become more nurturing, willing to cook and clean, to care for the children and the home along with their wives and sometimes in place of them.  Is there really any place then for a goddess figure that is strictly female? Is there a need to extol and empower the feminine principle?
In our quest to transform our daily lives through sadhana or discipline, the goddess actually can play a tremendously important role.  While it is true that men and women now work together rather than separately and often transcend gender boundaries in their roles and responsibilities, it is also true that what was so significant about the goddess was and is her sheer power to transform. If we think of the goddess not as a stone statue or a bronze idol but as our inner energy, then we realize how important she continues to be. Even as our roles shift and even reverse at times, our source of strength continues to be this inner power. We draw on it incessantly sometimes subconsciously and sometimes with urgent pleas for help. Whether male or female, we derive our sustenance from the goddess within. 
I was reminded of this during Dasera, when on the ninth day or Navami, I finally took the time from my daily frenetic activity and got around to performing a formal puja. I lit the lamp, guiltily dusted off the neglected deity, and began chanting the Lalita Sahasranama mantras. Before me in the framed painting sat the image of Lalita, delicate and smiling prettily in a pink saree. But when I closed my eyes in concentration, I saw something very different in my mind’s eye. There before me, sitting slightly to the right and across from me, staring straight ahead was a very different goddess.  She was quivering with energy, her nostrils flaring and her hair tumbling in wild ringlets around her forehead. Out of consideration for me, she did not look directly at me, nor did she reveal herself fully. I knew this at once, that she sat half hidden because I would not be able to handle the full force of her presence.  I sat in awe, chanting the mantras more carefully than I ever had before, knowing with every fiber of my being that I was chanting them directly to her. It was an intense experience, and one that reminded me very clearly of just who the goddess is.  
The goddess who lies within me is not the pretty Lalita, or the powerful Durga, or the generous Lakshmi, or even the wise Saraswati.  The goddess within is a mixture of all these things and most importantly she is me.  Yes, that’s right. The goddess within each of us is our most powerful self, quivering with unspent energy, sitting just out of reach, concentrating intensely on the present moment and ready to reshape our future.  
And how do we reach this goddess? How do we tap into this fountain of power? By acknowledging that we have much to give, and much to do. By allowing her to rise up and take charge, by unleashing the untapped energy within each of us.  I know that I have yet to fulfill my own potential. There is so much I want to do. So many people I want to help, voices I want to empower, lives I want to transform. Yet I often get bogged down in the details, feel overwhelmed by circumstance, or just plain lose my way and forget where it is I am going.  We all do. And that is when we need to turn our gaze within, and take an unflinching look at the neglected goddess. She is waiting and she is ready, kept silent only through our lack of introspection. 
In the present day, when men and women alike are being called on to do more and be more and to challenge every preconceived notion about both masculinity and femininity, we need a powerful ally who can aid us in that transformation. We need the strength to fight the many battles we must wage, and to shower those around us with love and encouragement. We need the passion to aim high and to break down barriers. We need the power to attain peace.  For all this, we need look no further than the goddess within. She is not only female but male as well, she is energy and consciousness combined, an unwavering, illimitable force who waits impatiently for our permission to lift us to our highest selves.

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