3 Questions That Could Change Your Life

candle light | 3 Questions That Could Change Your Life

Inviting in the Hindu Goddess Kali

I didn’t know anything about the Hindu goddess Kali until I dreamed about her. In waking life, I didn’t even know how to spell her name, much less what she traditionally represents to Hindu culture and spirituality since emerging in texts in roughly 1000 BCE. Then, two nights ago, I had a dream that kept referencing her. When I woke up, I recorded my dream, then I googled “Hindu Goddess Kali” and found out the basics. She is the most powerful god in Hinduism — male or female. She is often depicted with her tongue sticking out like a Maori warrior, with several extra arms flailing around her in the air. Sometimes she is standing with one foot on the chest of the god Shiva, her consort, who is lying on the ground beneath her in a submissive position.

“How validating and reassuring to discover an ancient female deity that models the unboxed, untamed parts of me.”

She is sometimes naked and sometimes she is wearing a short skirt made of human arms. She is bloody. She slays demons. Sometimes she is holding a severed head in one of her many hands (presumably a demon’s). She represents wilderness and the untethered force of mother nature. She is unapologetic, ruthless, fierce, life giving, life taking, and completely unself-conscious. She represents sexuality, motherhood and maternal instincts. In short, she is a complex paradox.

I think Study.com puts it best:

“Kali is a goddess of chaos. She is a sacred being that embodies that which can’t be controlled or contained.”

How validating and reassuring to discover an ancient female deity that models the unboxed, untamed parts of me. She is in most ways the antithesis of conventional ideals and associations with femininity. She forces us to wonder who came up with those constructs in the first place and why. Kali is raw, unfiltered, uncensored. There is no one with the authority to tame her, and even if there was she would probably devour them with her broad, expansive tongue before they had the chance. She is a force unmatched.

In my dream, two women had just baked a decadent pie-shaped dessert with mounds of billowy whipped cream, generous amounts of red raspberry coulis, and a pattern of paisley-shaped puffed pastry on top, sticking out like wispy flower petals. We were honoring Kali with this alluring confection and I poked my fingers into its soft center to taste it as the two women told me myths of the goddess, interspersed with the Sanskrit names and tales of other Hindu characters who were foreign to me. I found it hard to follow.

Question 1: How much of your femininity is performative?

In my perusal online to learn more about her, the first article that caught my attention was titled: Kali is the 3,000-year-old feminist icon we need today in Quartz Media. Inside the article, a phrase caught my attention:

“Kali’s femininity isn’t performative”.

What an interesting thought, a femininity that isn’t performative.

Where our individual nature, personality and authentic expression end and where performative behavior begins seems blurry to me.

For me, it immediately begs the question, How much of my femininity is performative? This is something that two days later, I am beginning to build increasingly more curiosity and awareness about. Certainly wearing make-up and heels, dying my roots, wearing jewelry and so on is some strange hybrid of conformity, personal expression and performance.

On days when I’m home in pajamas and not expecting anyone to stop by, I don’t bother with any of these adornments. In fact, I barely even remember to brush my hair, so it must all be for the benefit of an audience. So much of human behavior is learned, based on role models, messaging, mythology, storytelling and expectations. Where our individual nature, personality, and authentic expression end and where performative behavior begins seems blurry to me. Who would we be without the given set of gender norms? Thankfully, the millennials and generation Z are doing a great job disrupting them, so maybe one day soon we will all find out. I want to continue exploring the ways my own behavior might be performative femininity, beyond even how I dress or adorn myself. What does nonperformative femininity look like (enter goddess Kali)? And equally interesting, what does nonperformative masculinty look like?

Question 2: How much of your sex is choreographed?

On my morning run, listening to my current favorite podcast and daily catharsis We Can Do Hard Things, I heard Glennon Doyle use the term “choreographed sex”. She defined it as “the kind of sex we try to recreate when it’s choreographed by porn culture, by movies,” as opposed to our own natural, intuitive or instinctual impulses and desires. Doyle talked about “untaming” herself from “choreographed everything”. Right away, my mind lit up with the question, How many of my sexual experiences have been choreographed? -if not by me, by my partners? Another question worth mucking around with. I doubt Kali’s expression of sexuality is based on what she’s seen in the movies.

Question 3: What do you think and believe is your true offering to the world?

The third question that caught my attention since my Kali dream, was yesterday listening to Oprah interview Tarana Burke on her new book Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, published last week. Oprah posed the question:

“What do you think and believe is your true offering to the world?”

Wow. What a question. And Burke was ready with an answer that exceeded my expectations and entered directly into my heart. She said:

“I think honesty…and to create spaces where people also can be honest.”

Once again, wow. How simple. Such resonance. If I can live into that mission, with all the energy and might of Kali, that will be a wild and precious life well lived.

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