I have been reading Sally Kempton’s Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga as part of a training. One of the most beautiful takeaways so far is the power of naked honesty.
My clothes free journey is just over 2 years old, though it feels like it has been a decade. As I’ve written in other pieces, this journey of getting naked with myself has raised deep questions about who I am being and how I am being in the world. Many changes have happened since, and yet, I must admit that I felt shame whenever I saw my dark sides.
That’s the thing about getting naked: you don’t just reveal the shiny smiling parts of yourself. You get the whole package, like fried rice combinations that include carrots and peas along with the more coveted protein, spices and sauce. (Maybe you always liked peas, but they used to make me hurl.) When I took my clothes off, I didn’t just see the beauty of my skin and soul, I saw dark sides of me that had been masked for years. Dishonesty, jealousy, insecurity, hoarding, self-deprecation, coveting, deception and secretive tendencies boiled to the surfaced and tossed about the rolling waters of my awareness. I felt a ton of shame about the things I saw inside. I still feel it.
When I ventured into the social media circles of clothes free living, I observed people using the terms “goddess” and “queen” quite often. I didn’t really understand why. These are not words that were commonly used where I grew up, though my mom always called me her little princess. One thing I observed is that a number of men (though I know for a fact not all men) tended to assign those terms whenever they, themselves, felt enticed or pleased by a woman’s expressed sultriness or happiness, or so it seemed to me. She was a goddess because of how she turned him on.
Women, however, generally employed the terms more broadly, including everyday moments of just getting ready for work and even on days when they were sad, angry, frustrated or struggling with something. Phrases such as “still a queen” or “pick up your crown” or “goddess” colored their posts even during stormy seasons in their lives. And women did this both for their own posts and in commenting on other women’s posts. There was a willingness to embrace, own and value that “goddess” and “queen” power unconditionally, as something that could not be assigned or taken away, but rather something that lived within and they wanted to reinforce this for themselves and for other women. This is something I noticed, but didn’t quite “get” until I started reading Kempton’s book.
The goddess with whom I connect most deeply is Chinnamasta, whom Kempton describes as the “goddess of transcendence and ecstatic empowerment.” The description of all of her sides align with all sides of me and states to which I aspire.
Chinnamasta severs her head, an uncomfortable image, perhaps. One observes blood shooting up and out feeding both her own head and the mouths of others. The blood is powerful life force rising from energy within. Quite a provoking image and, yet, I find comfort and familiarity in it.
Kempton articulates some aspects of the severed-headed goddess:
- representing the naked sharing of experience in women’s circles
- naked truthfulness no matter the cost
- radical self-sacrifice
- transforming unconscious sacrifice into self-surrender
- decapitation of ego / egoless states
With those come the shadow sides, including:
- giving away too much individuality
- disassociating and disembodying to cope with trauma
Suddenly, all of my past and present experiences made sense. I recognized myself in all of it. And the more I read Kempton’s take on the power of this goddess, the more my perspective of myself shifted. My challenges didn’t make me weak or bad, they didn’t make me less than. In fact, power awaited me in a willingness to see and embrace those other sides of me. I had to be willing to value all aspects of me unconditionally, no matter what anyone else thought or said. A work in process 🙂
“[The Tantric goddesses] allow women to envision their own audacity, flaunt their wounds, and speak of what ordinarily would be unspeakable. In fact, it is the shocking quality of Chinnamasta’s image that gives it resonance for contemporary women – both as an archetype of freedom and an archetype of woundedness.” – Sally Kempton
So often we women can be most critical of ourselves, and we absorb the criticism from others unquestioningly sometimes. We wait for others to validate and value us. Our sense of self and worth fluctuate like the stock market. These yoga goddesses, though, never change or deny who they are. They harness the power of naked truthfulness as a force of nature to accomplish many things. Perhaps we can embrace that. Whenever we think, “Ugh, there is always something wrong…” we can transform that with, “Ah! There is always something!” something for us to recognize, embrace, harness, cultivate and use to impact ourselves and the world.