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My Navaratri celebration this year became a battle I waged against my inner demons of needing approval from society, and came out of, victorious.
This time during Navaratri (Sept-Oct 2019), instead of the usual ‘Golu’ and temple visits, it so happened that I got to go to a Vipassana Retreat for the first time.
I didn’t realise the significance fully when I went in – that I had gone in not just for meditation in silence and solitude; I had gone in to wage a fierce battle, through constant, uninterrupted meditative practice, against the fundamental demons within me.
One of them was my dependence on validation and approval from my world – home, family, husband, elders, friends, society… you name it. While this may be an asura (demon) that may attack anyone – men, women and gender fluid persons, it is quite clear that it is a demon which can wreak havoc for women.
My yoga practice continuously leads me to the experiential understanding that there are no real demons outside, and one needs to work with the demons inside. Those are the ones to fight.
The Buffalo, in Yoga philosophy and practice especially, is a metaphor for a stuck and stubborn mind, indolent and secure in its comforts.
The Navaratri is a celebration of Shakti in her various forms, culminating on Vijayadasami (10th day of victory), when Durga in the form of Mahishasuramardhini kills Mahishasura, the buffalo demon. The myth goes that this demon had the boon that no male can kill him. Hence it needed a woman, Durga, to be born to outwit and kill him.
Vijayadasami is symbolic then, of killing the demons within one.
It is possibly obvious to us on this platform, how women are made to be dependant on validation and approval from an external world. This is especially true of Indian households, ways of organising the family life, and for wives, mothers, home makers, working women, young and old.
While yes, we are seeing a changing scenario, I think that the collective mindset is still largely of a woman first being in the protection of her father, then of her husband, and then her son. A single woman in her 30’s for instance must have heard the question, “when are you getting married?” enough number of times to make her ears bleed. “Akeli ladki khuli hui tijori” syndrome!
Women then need to get approvals for being who we are and pursuing our desires, rather than a participative environment, with dialogue and responsibility sharing.
But, think again. What is not so obvious is that, this demon of approval and validation seeking is within us first. Freedom from seeking validation is a definitive inner independence that women particularly need to make sure they work towards.
As long as we don’t work with ourselves first, no amount of rabble-rousing, slogan-shouting and chest-beating, urrrmmmm, breast-beating, is going to bring about real change worth its name.
Now this is something I started realising in and through my yoga practice – a nuanced process of looking at one’s way of conducting one’s life and relationships, cultivating good health through practices for body and mind, in preparation for going on an inward journey to examine one’s intentions and purposes in life, and actualising one’s true desires and nature.
This is an inside-out journey that is undertaken with guidance and mentoring from practising teachers (one cannot truly teach unless one is actively learning and practising all the time). In this journey, we will have to encounter our inner demons at one point or another and slay them, in order to progress. There are no short cuts and work-arounds or bonus lives like in video games!
The journey led me to the rigorous, 10-day, silent retreat at the vipassana centre in Tiruvannamalai.
When things outside go silent, we start hearing the noises in our heads loud and clear. We will realise that we have tied ourselves up with chains of dependence. The inner demon of validation-seeking holds us victim as much as the outer demons from social constraint; I realised that just as much as the injustices and noises we are experiencing are from outside, there are corresponding ones from the inside.
At the Retreat, when the noises outside went silent, and in solitude, I heard the noises in my head loud and clear. My validation and approval seeking thoughts included. And saw how these thoughts have been shaping my reality and creating more of the same old life patterns again and again. Then, with continued meditative practice, these noises subsided one by one, as they do.
By and by on this path, with God’s Grace, I found a silence within. And in that silence, it is possible that we hear our true, real voices. The ones which are independent. Which validate themselves. Which approve themselves. Which give themselves permission to be.
I came back from the Retreat and went to Sri Ramanasramam in Tiruvannamalai, on the 9th day of Navaratri. What do I see there? The Devi, decorated for that day in her Mahishasuramardhini form with the asura at her feet and the trishulam at his neck!
In a flash I recognised that this is what had happened for me. My Navaratri celebration this year became an inner battle I waged and came out of, victorious. I had found the Shakti in me, who now has the buffalo demon at her feet, weak, wounded and dying.
May each and every woman find the Shakti and Mahishasuramardhini within, vanquish her inner demons, and emerge strong and able to stand calm, collected, graceful and laughing, in any life circumstance, just like the Durga who is her source.
Image source: YouTube
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Yoga Therapist, Energy-based healing (including Reiki) practitioner, and Poet living in Tiruvannamalai. As in
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