This morning, I opened my meditation by chanting to the Goddess Tapasvini, a form of the goddess Parvati who is also known as Uma, Gauri, and Jagadamba. When I first dived into the world of Hindu mythology I became overwhelmed with all the different names, different forms, and conflicting stories of the deities. If I wasn’t so in love with the deities and craving more I’d probably have given up on my learning. Falling in love with deities is like falling in love with any person – there are countless aspects to a single person and it can take a lifetime to know all the intimate intricacies of a person and even then, they will still surprise you. As there are countless parts to a single individual, all goddesses are an embodiment of Shakti.
Shakti means “power” and is the activating force of the universe. Shakti is the power of thought, the ability to manifest, and the object manifested. Shakti, both your breath and the ability to breathe, is referred to as the feminine energy of the universe and all forms of Goddess are representations of her. Although, the goddesses represent Shakti this does not exclude the men from the energetic power of Shakti. The masculine and the feminine energies of the universe reside in each of us – this is evident in the equal exchange of your inhale and exhale, the necessity of the sun and the moon, and the left and right sides of your brain and body.
When we understand Shakti and recognize the animating force around us, new doorways of living open for us. One of the most concise steps to connect with Shakti is found in the yoga sutras, a foundation of yoga philosophy. Yoga sutra 1.20 outlines five-fold path to Self-Realization: 1) Sraddha: conviction or faith in your path, 2) Virya: making vigorous action that you are going in the right direction of your path, 3) Smriti: pause to reflect on your path and still the mind, 4) Samadhi: all-consuming focus, and 5) Prajna: discernment or clear understanding.
This five-fold system of awakening is to help you cultivate the life you want:
- Sraddha: What do you want? Shakti is the power behind thought. Before you go on your path, it is imperative you become clear about what you want for yourself. Then have the faith to believe that this is your path and yes! How you dedicate your heart, is how you live your life. Having faith in yourself something means going against the current of what is expected of you. You will know if you are going the right direction by feelings of wellness, ease, love, and excitement.
- Virya: Vigorous action in the right direction. This is all Shakti. What actions step are you taking on your path? Do you speak your truth? Do your actions compromise or support your health, your well-being, and your growth?
- Smriti: Pause, refection, and stilling the mind. This key step is about going within and connecting with the intuitive voice that is Shakti. On your path, you will face obstacles. Some will be external rejections and roadblocks; others will be internal hurdles such as fear, lethargy, laziness, and distractions. This is the time to pause and recommit to your path. Are you making the best choices for you? Are you really living the life you want? Do you spend your day giving into fear or moving forward with confidence? How would you feel if you quit now? How would you feel if you kept moving forward? To really hear Shakti respond to your questions, meditate on your questions and be still to hear the answers. Because Shakti is an activating energy the answers can arise in a multitude of ways: you may hear the answers as words, feel the answers as sensations in your body, or receive signs from the natural world.
- Samadhi: Complete focus. This is the complete focus on your path and being committed to your path by making the choices that foster your growth. For example: Are you up late watching TV or going to sleep so you can get up early and meditate? When you arrive at this step all your thoughts are in the direction of your path and distractions are removed. As a result, you are clear and calm in your intentions and actions.
- Prajna: Discriminating wisdom. This is the clear understanding of the tools you have and the path you are walking. This is often when we seek help or counsel from someone else in the process of advancing our growth. Because we are advancing our growth, most of us return back to step one, committing ourselves to our new path, our new direction.
Shakti, the energy current which always moves through and around us, are the words we use, the philosophy we read, and the actions we take. The five attitudes of the yoga path are tangible ways to connect with Shakti and create the life you want for yourself. Remember, Shakti is always available to tune into and utilize for your own betterment.