Lately I’ve been wondering why Hinduism has such a strong hold on my heart. I was raised Lutheran and went through a pretty big spiritual phase in my early twenties – which still had roots in Christian concepts – with a lot of hippy drippy peace & love ideals thrown in.
I spent my free time feeling energy in the people, plants and animals around me; often wondering if my imagination was getting the better of me or if the things I experienced were real. Either way those feelings were very real to me and that made them incredibly powerful. Metaphysical discussions were the norm and when I wasn’t on the front porch smoking a cigarette and talking about the universe I was reading books. Hell, I even dabbled in tarot card reading until my cards predicted bad health for a girl that miscarried soon after.
When I moved to Hawaii to work on organic farms I felt a huge shift start to take place within me. I was married at the time, to someone I had been with for 13 years. He had a lot of control over my belief system and I allowed myself to be influenced into believing things that I never really thought through for myself. I felt vacant and lost. I was also scared because anytime I voiced an opposing idea it was shot down in a forceful way. Eventually he became abusive and because of that I lost faith in everything that I believed in.
I remember when I knew I had to leave, but I was so goddamn scared and so incredibly alone. We were working on a farm, the only WWOOFer’s there, and I don’t understand what set him off. He threw me from one end of the communal area to the other, while I screamed and sobbed my fucking head off. There was no one else around. Nobody could hear me. And he was in such a rage that I worried he could kill me. I kept saying I was sorry over and over again, but I didn’t know why I was sorry and knew that all he heard was a hollow apology.
Later he said he saw “bad energy” inside me and was trying to scare it out of me. When he was satisfied that he succeeded the abusive episode ended. Whatever it was … this was the moment the blindfold was removed from my eyes. I saw a sad, disgusting man who used religion and spirituality to account for his cruelty. On a nice day I’ll admit that there was something seriously wrong with his mental state.
This is not a blog that I post lightly and I do so with some trepidation. But it’s here, you know? I’m ashamed to admit how long it took me to move back to Houston and leave him, but when I did so I completely shunned religion. I hated religion. I hated spirituality. I decided I was atheist and honestly felt – and still do – perfectly content with that.
It’s been almost three years and yes, time does heal all wounds. While I am not a religious person something about Hinduism resonates with me. This can easily be explained by what Hinduism does NOT have: 1) a single founder 2) a single concept of deity 3) a single holy text 4) a single system of morality 5) a central religious authority 6) the concept of a prophet 7) a specific theological system.
But Hinduism does have two things that attract me. Kali and Yoga.
Kali is the Goddess frequently associated with death and destruction. She is often depicted with four arms; one holds a sword, another a demon’s head and the other two are empty (depending on the artist). She wears a necklace of skulls and sticks her tongue out while standing on top of Shiva. She’s a frightful sight, yet I find her fascinating.
Kali means “the black one”, and the blackness symbolizes her all-embracing nature. “Just as all colors disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her” (Mahanirvana Tantra). Although Kali seems dark and a little freaky, she also represents time – more specifically the end of time – and change (my favorite). She is revered as Bhavatarini, “The Redeemer of the Universe”. I can’t speak for the Universe, but in some ways she had redeemed me.
It all started when I read Goddess for Hire by Sonia Singh. The book is completely silly chick-lit fiction about a girl who is the reincarnation of Kali. It’s goofy enough that I’m not even sure I should recommend it, but somehow Kali caught me under her spell. Oh, it’s not entirely lost on me that my name, Kelly, and Kali sound pretty similar.
Hinduism has such rich stories and my interpretation – while quite possibly incorrect and offensive to others – allows me to feel in touch with some form of spirituality. Maybe someday I’ll manage to embrace an idea fully again. In the meantime I think I’ll just sit back and respect that the goals for the world’s third largest religion are righteousness in religious life (dharma), economic success (artha), gratification of the senses (kama – yes this includes sensual and mental enjoyment) and eventually liberation from the cycle of birth, life, death & rebirth (moksa). In order to reach moksa you must be self-realized … not just some mindless sheep who goes to church every Sunday. I believe that.
And then there is Yoga, which I enjoy on so many levels. As someone who is flexible, yet a wee bit out of shape, it’s pretty fun to walk into a yoga class and (I know I’m not supposed to feel like this) show off how bendy-flexy I can be. That flexibility makes up for the strength I am still trying to build, but nevertheless my body hurts after every single class. And who cares? I fucking love it! I like sweating my ass off while honoring myself and the Universe. I appreciate and adore every time I push past a mental block. And I have a lot of fun chanting om’s, missing them when a teacher doesn’t incorporate them (those days I om all the way home).
Yes, savasana. Total liberation. Sometimes I cry after a really intense practice, but mostly I lay on my Kali Ma towel, relishing my inner strength and loving myself. And finally, once again, feeling connected.