You may wonder why you’d find it worthwhile to invite the energy of mythic beings into your meditation practice. The short answer is that these archetypal energies are catalysts. Meditating on deities such as Durga, Hanuman, Shiva, and Lakshmi can call forth specific powers and qualities within you. These sacred powers come to you from beyond your limited ego and can help you meet challenges, open your heart, and transcend the ordinary. For centuries, the Indian and Tibetan Tantric traditions have taught meditations and mantras for bringing deity energy into the body and mind. Goddesses are especially potent, since they personify shakti, the subtle feminine force that enlivens the world, often considered the power behind spiritual growth. So practicing with the stories and mantras of one of these sacred figures can literally invite transformative energies into your life.
The images of these goddesses can serve as keys to unlocking your own inner potency. That’s because, though mythic, they are not just figments of human imagination. Goddess images represent real forces present in the universe. Their forms are extremely subtle, which is why they’re not normally apparent. Through the tales, meditations, and mantras associated with them, you can learn to sense their presence. The more you connect to them, the more palpably you can experience their inner gifts and blessings.
Just as Lakshmi is the shakti, or goddess, you call on for abundance, so Durga is the shakti you call on for strength, protection, and transformation. Worshipped by the ruling families of Rajasthan for help in battle, Durga is much more than a warrior goddess. She is also the power behind spiritual awakening, the inner force that unleashes spiritual power within the human body in the form of kundalini. And she is a guardian: beautiful, queenly, and motherly.
Durga carries a spear, a mace, a discus, a bow, and a sword—as well as a conch (symbolizing creative sound), a lotus (representing fertility), and a rosary (symbolizing prayer). In one version of her origin, she arises from the combined strength of the male gods to fight the buffalo demon Mahisha. The assembled gods, furious because they are powerless over this demon, send forth their anger as a mass of light and power. It coalesces into the form of a radiantly beautiful woman who fills every direction with her light. Her face was formed out of the light of Shiva; her hair came from Yama, the god of death; Vishnu, the sustainer, gave her arms. Shiva gave her his trident, Vishnu his discus; Vayu—the wind god—offered his bow and arrow. The mountain god, Himalaya, gave her a lion for her mount. Durga sets forth to battle the demon for the sake of the world, armed with all the powers of the divine masculine.
And ever since, she has been the deity to call on when you’re in deep trouble. In the Devi Mahatmyam (Triumph of the Goddess), a medieval song cycle about Durga that is still recited all over India, she promises that she will always appear when we need her to protect our world. She invites us to turn to her in crisis and promises to move mountains to rescue us from every form of evil—including the evil we, ourselves, create!
Finding Your Ferocity with Durga
One of the most powerful practices for connecting with the goddess is to imagine that with each inhalation, you draw in her loving, protecting, empowering energy, and with each exhalation you breathe her energy through your body. As in so much yoga practice, the breath is the bridge between our physical self and the subtle energies of the invisible worlds. When you invoke Durga, you may very well feel her as a heightened energy. But connecting to Durga’s energy is just as likely to result in a subtle feeling of greater insight, in a feeling of being supported with strength to carry on during a hard time, or in the strategic instinct that helps you win your battles. This can happen so subtly that it’s only in hindsight that you realize you were being supported. And this can happen in surprising ways.
Answer Durga’s Call to Lead
One way to feel a sense of the Durga shakti is to remember a moment when you recognized, from the deepest place inside you, that something was wrong, that it had to change. If that recognition comes from the Durga shakti, it goes beyond mere frustration or cognitive awareness of a social problem. Durga’s transformative power carries a conviction that comes from deep inside the body, and with it often comes a sense of “Now!”—meaning the time is now. When that sense is strong enough, it is followed by action. You will put your body and your speech on the line to change the situation, whether it’s internal or external.
The same power of purposeful action can be invoked when you need the will to change a deep-seated habit or addiction, to carve out time for practice, or to follow an inner calling. The Durga shakti can give you the power to face parts of yourself that stand in the way of your evolution, but she can also show you how to speak up for yourself when you need to ask for a raise, face a challenge, or take on a difficult responsibility—in short, to set things right.
The more you invite Durga’s energy into your life, the more you’ll feel her opening you to your inner warrior. Her power guards your highest aspirations, and she promises never to let you down.