Shakti Pilgrimage

The Inspiration. I feel impotent in my life. It has been this way ever since I can remember. How I think about it has changed with a tremendous amount of effort. A journey of healing that remains in progress. Today, I would say that I struggle with “agency.” The feeling of power in my actions to produce a particular outcome in my life. This is different from control over my life, which is a bit of a myth. Control over life belongs to a realm of greater forces beyond any human. Rightfully so. Agency is a capacity. It is first nurtured in us as children when our yeses and noes are heard and respected. In time we deepen it like any skill we cultivate. Agency is the capacity to meet what shows up in my life and look it straight in the eye. Agency and embodied empowerment go hand in hand.

As a woman, a “colored” woman, more precisely a “wheat-ish” woman, I know the experience of disempowerment. It feels imposed on me. I feel it as an absence of my on intrinsic experience of agency. It sits in me like self-inflicted victimhood getting reconfirmed by the cultures I participate in. Perhaps it begins with being conceived female. An inheritance of sorts. I am deeply entangled in this collective perspective that is passed down from one generation of females to the next. Women are treated less than even if we are not. Inferiority is the assumption. The way it is. It is the air we breath. Inferiority is then re-confirmed by the absence of laws and policies to protect our equality. The Equal Rights Amendment was never formally ratified before its deadline. The collective will to legitimize equity in America remains a question with no answer.

When I meet highly successful women rising above the glass ceiling or young women having different experience than those before them, I hit doubt. Have these women truly evolved beyond history? Are they an exception to the rule? The ones I think have achieved this, all paid a price. They sacrifice some aspect of their womanhood by assimilating to a man’s world. The aftertaste of disempowerment lingers. I live those sacrifices too.

Some years ago, I became curious if women were historically ever eye to eye with their male counterparts. Are we evolving into equality or trying to heal something that broke? I began to look at the wisdom traditions of many of today’s prominent religions, specifically the stories, the mythology to learn the origin stories of The Feminine. At first glance, The Feminine seems to be disenfranchised from the beginning, especially in the stories of my roots, in India. Yet, Devi (Goddess), the ultimate expression of femininity remains so revered. Shakti (power) and Devi are considered one. Spoken of and related to interchangeably. There are countless forms of Devi who we see as many different Devis within Indian culture. Yet, it is one Devi with many different expressions. There is an ocean of difference between what women over generations are suffering and have come to believe about themselves compared to potential that Devi models and the principles of The Sacred Feminine she conveys. There is no self-contained text of The Sacred Feminine. Just fragmented crumbs we get a taste of in a moment of luck.

So this is the journey. Returning to the origins of Devi as a pilgrim to do what pilgrims do. Seek a blessing and invite an experience. It is an attempt to embody her wisdom and power in a way relevant to this age. To go beyond what feels impossible in my own life and within the adversity that many women express to me in my practice of obstetrics and gynecology around the world over the years. I am embarking on the possibility of living her Shakti as a healthy expression of my own agency. Communicating a healthy dynamic of power promising harmony with life and the difficulties that are intrinsic to womanhood. I have a feeling that her Shakti and what we revere as power might not completely line up. Faith and devotion are not natural to me. It is a big step to express a prayer for a direct experience of Devi and what she represents through her enduring legacy.

Over the next year I will be traveling across South Asia, in a region known as the Indian subcontinent to visit the 51 seats of Shakti (Shakti Peeths) as a pilgrim. Pilgrimages have been made to these temples of various aspects of Devi going back before written history. Each Shakti Peeth and the temple standing upon it marks the parts of the Devi that fell to the earth from the cosmos during the early days of creation, thereby consecrating her divinity in them and embodying her own omnipotence in timelessness.

Next time… A little context and orientation in Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma & Truth.

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