Throughout the chapter on Dhumavati, Kempton explains that she is seen as the crone goddess, the goddess of disappointment, old age, letting go, the widow, the smoky one, lacking moisture and fertility, dissolution.
“Think of Dhumavati energy as a dry lake bed, as the barren rice fields in a drought-ridden landscape, or in places where clear-cutting has turned rain forest into desert. She is dead coral reefs and foreclosed houses with broken windows. She is refugee camps and displaced peoples moving without passports over desolate ground.” – Sally Kempton
This widow goddess reminded me of my own fear of losing value. I think about how I am slowly moving away from the stage of life that people usually praise as beautiful, youthful, attractive. In a very real and honest sense, I am afraid of losing value. I know that people can’t help themselves, they are drawn to lithe flexible bodies, they don’t appreciate those who cannot or do not present a certain type of beauty, no matter what they say. The young, bendy, perky, blemish-less woman will always win. And women who do not grow through traditional channels over the years usually make people tilt their heads and crunch their faces. So as I read Dhumavati, I felt the urge to slam the book closed and storm out of whatever physical space I could to escape the discomfort of being confronted by my own fears.
“She is everything that we want to turn away from and refuse to admit to our lives.” – Sally Kempton
This past week, though, I had a few major shifts. First, I moved out of my friend’s apartment and into my own space. As I unpacked, I realized just how little I have after a year of purging and letting go. My new place is the smallest studio in the building, and yet, it feels so empty. There is no furniture. I take my rest in a sleeping bag on the floor, which I actually find quite comfortable. But, there is also this deep sense of void and of being alone. As I sit, I realize how much I appreciate the feeling of space. Think about it: space holds everything that we see. It is a powerful kind of full emptiness (or empty fullness!).
Secondly, I went to a meditation workshop last Sunday. I hadn’t been meditating daily for the past few weeks, because stillness scared me for many reasons. So, when the meditation workshop came, I was both nervous and ready to confront that fear. As the teacher led us through the process, imagined sitting next to Dhumavati mid-slope of a mountain. We were both silent, nothing doing. But, that image of simple presence and being with the environment brought me strength and peace. I realized that the goddess I was trying to run from was actually my best friend. I feel safest with her.
Unlike other goddesses in the book, Dhumavati doesn’t have a consort. But the fascinating thing I realize in reading her characteristics in the book, is that she is actually not lacking. Rather, she embodies both pure awareness, which is traditionally associated with the god Shiva (masculine), and energy, associated with Shakti (feminine). In other words, Dhumavati is a return to unity, oneness and source, if we allow ourselves to embrace it even in the most uncomfortable moments and manifestations.
I share this for Women on Wednesdays today, because many women can relate to this experience of being or becoming less valued in popular circles. Whether we live inside traditional roles or outside of them (or both!) we have that experience of being outsiders, avoided, unloved, less desired with passing years, only / mainly valued for our outer beauty while it lasts. We might have felt like dead coral reefs, unheard and unseen. But there is the seed of great strength and potential, if we are willing to look at it and be with it.
“But sometimes in a moment when the worst happens, you discover an enormous dignity and peace in simply standing in what you are.” – Sally Kempton
I am inviting this practice into my life and invite other women to consider it as well (really, any gender). Befriend the most off-putting aspects of yourself, your reality. Go in and be with it. When all has fallen apart and given up on you, or when you’ve destroyed everything and taken yourself down to the lowest level, become best friends with the Dhumavati of it all. In there lies great strength and peace that doesn’t rely on any action. It’s simple unconditional awareness and being.
” ‘Let go’ is Dhumavati’s deepest mantra. It arises as the subtle whisper in the heart when you meet her irresistible force and realize that, in crushing you, it expands your borders until borders have no more meaning. Then you flow through reality like smoke and stare out at the world with a vision that understands that you are in everything.” – Sally Kempton
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