Taking formal initiation in India six years later, I agreed to accept challenges both seen and unknown. The first of these involved rectifying my relationship with my body. Once addicted to perfection and suffering from anorexia nervosa, it was Kali’s form as an emaciated goddess that brought me to my senses and helped me heal. When she is depicted as skeletal, her imagery offers us a glimpse at the paradox of spirit incarnate. She is shown in this way because her life-generating aspect is so powerful that she is in a constant state of insatiable hunger and must be fed—but she can only be fed on her creation. She exists in the liminal at the same time that she is of this world, creating and decomposing the stuff of life to make life once again.
From the sufferings of my self-inflicted starvation to moments of spiritual awakening, Kali has inspired the work required in this body that I might experience some of the depths and heights of the human condition. Much like my original coming to Kali—or her coming to me—another dream recently offered me additional insight. In the dream, I hold my young daughter in my arms. She has been taken and beaten by a group of people unknown to me, and only just returned. She is quiet and comfortable in my embrace. As I hold her, I know she will be alright and that what she needs most now is my care and love. I reach over to take off her sneakers and socks. Pulling off the first sock, I see the horror of her torment; her captors have broken every toe and twisted each around. I awake shaking.
After the anguish of wrestling with the dream for days, I finally came to realize its truth. I am my daughter, and the dream has presented her dramatically in order to instruct. She is unconditional love, such as of a mother for her child, and she is the pain of living through the traumas of family-inflicted and culture-inflicted injuries. I realize in holding this awareness that I have been loving myself as broken all this time. Quiet and eventually comfortable with the brokenness after years of psycho-spiritual self reflection, I have learned to kiss my wounds and go on; but I have not come to accept the whole of my beingness.
Just as I know my daughter to be pure and perfect regardless of all else, the same must be true of me. The teaching of the dream is revealed: I need to own the beauty and the essence of who I am, right in the imperfections of this physical birthing. The toes in the dream are a special message from my sole in touch with my soul. And this, I have learned, is what it means to accept Kali’s embrace. Birthing of the soul is the blossoming that happens when we are able to love ourselves completely.
In the Flesh
To be aligned with Goddess Kali, for me, is to feel something within that could be mistaken for the very will to live itself. I can only describe it as that philosophical sentiment the ancients refer to as a reflection of the Great Mystery; that which burns at the heart of one’s being in profound resonance with the Divine as She exists beyond boundaries of time and space. But my lack of articulation here does not cloud what I do know. She is not an agenda. She is not driven from imagination, theory or ego.