Embodied Intimacy, Transformative Inquiry, Creative Emergence

Dancing with Mother Kali ~ Strong Medicine for Dangerous Times

Posted by on Dec 10, 2019 in Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 2 comments

Dancing with Mother Kali ~ Strong Medicine for Dangerous Times

“Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.” (Chogyam Trungpa)

As we enter the last part of the year, Kali, the black goddess of destruction and renewal, is dancing wildly in the world. She’s really not that elegant-no-one seems to have taught her any manners. She’s not the blue-eyed goddess we’ve been hoping for. She’s more like the horrible fairy godmother in Sleeping Beauty, the very last one you would ever invite to the party. But she’s here now-looks like she gave up waiting for the invitation. She just barged right in and took over the playlist.

I’m not thinking we can get rid of her any time soon; I don’t see any bouncers appearing to escort her to the door. So maybe its time to finally turn and face her, and get deeply interested in what happens when she cuts loose and really shakes her booty. Somewhere, deep in our bodies, we already know it: when Kali dances up a storm, things really start to fall apart.

Because the outer and the inner worlds are not separate, things are unravelling on the inside too. I’ve been talking a lot with people about what’s falling apart inside them. And inside me. The good news about these times is that we’re all in this together. We don’t have to keep the crumbling a secret anymore. I want to get as naked as possible, as radically transparent to myself and to others as I know how to be. This is the only way I know how to stay connected with myself and with the people in my life. Being this honest is not easy. Our hidden cultural contracts do not support this way of being.

In a time of great chaos, the appearances of things slip and slide around. We think things are a certain way and it turns out they are not. Many of us thought that if we just carried on as usual, things would sort themselves out, somehow. We were very wrong about that. What else could we be wrong about? What haven’t we seen? How much of the essence, the truth of life have we been missing?

I think we have been missing a lot. It’s very powerful and deeply humbling to cop to this, to open our hearts to the fact that we have been stumbling around in the dark together. We’ve been holding out, inside our bubbles, for what we think life should be, or for what we think we can deal with. But as is becoming very clear, life does not play by those rules. It actually never did. Most of the people living in the third world could have told us this a long time ago.

The arrow of our evolution seems to be pointing us, right now, to the possibility of expanding the bubble we have been living inside of, and ultimately learning how to live outside it. This may sound rather exhilarating, but the fact is, we’ve been living in our bubbles for a very long time. It’s not so easy to just step out, into a much bigger, wilder world. We don’t have to judge ourselves harshly; we’ve had good reasons for remaining inside our bubbles. They have been our safety, our security, our way of belonging, of surviving. Our bubbles have been the antidote to our existential fear. Stepping outside my own bubbles has been so much more difficult than I imagined. It has left me burning in “the fires of slowness,” as Matt Licata calls them. I’ve discovered that moving beyond my habitual landscapes is a movement, an unfolding, that cannot be forced. The heart has to lead the way here, as I leave the world I know behind, step by step.

The great spiritual traditions of the world have been speaking to us for thousands of years now, about the ultimate bubble we are being asked to step through: our core sense of separation. And just like all of the other bubbles, we don’t grow out of this identity, we don’t awaken from it, until we feel a lot of evolutionary pressure. I used to be angry about this. I wanted human beings to heal and evolve without needing things to first fall apart around them. I believe this easier gentler way is still a possibility; and most of the time it doesn’t happen that way. We cling to our cocoons, our fantasies, our numbness; we keep avoiding what we don’t want to feel, what we don’t want to see, until we can’t do it any longer.

“Because everyday life is so challenging, there is a great need to pretend. Our most intimate feelings get shunted to the side, relegated to our dreams. We all want to be normal. Life, even normal life, is arduous, demanding and ultimately threatening. We all have to deal with it and none of us really knows how. We are all traumatized by life, by its unpredictability, its randomness, its lack of regard for our feelings and the losses it brings.”  The Trauma of Everyday Life, Mark Epstein

After Donald Trump was elected, I felt a wave of collective shock and trauma moving in the world, the depth of which I had never felt before, not even during 911. Terrifying as they are, trauma and devastation carry their own gifts. This is the extremely good news that chaos brings. Kali is not really an enemy; in India they relate to her as a mother. When things fall apart we come together, in the naked truth of our humanity. The time we are in now is like a portal through which we could leave our bubbles and grow up together, awaken into the next stage of our evolution. It’s clear we have come to a major impasse. We can’t look to the past for our answers. We are entering a place we have never been before.


We need a lot of grounded clarity right now, a willingness to stop and deeply consider how we will actually grow into the next stage of our evolution. What an immense challenge the universe has dropped into our lap. This is not a time for naivete, for clinging to tradition or dogma or spiritual fantasies.

Going beyond our ego, transcending the personal, letting go of our fixed identity–these goals are so often cherished in our spiritual lives. Very often they hold a great deal of self-hatred in them, a deep sense that I am not really allowed to exist as I am. Instead of learning to work directly with the shame, insecurity, rage, and terror of our early years on earth, many of us turn to spirituality as a way to bypass all of those feelings. We don’t understand that our awakening needs to happen side by side with growing up, becoming a true adult, a mature human being, a fully embodied individual. We don’t understand yet, that to be fully ourselves does not mean that we will be cut off from the sacred ground of our being.

I wandered for many years in the mazes of spiritual bypassing. It’s only now, as an elder, that I am finally strong enough to turn and begin facing what is happening in me and what is happening in the world. “Far from eliminating the ego, as I naively believed I should when I first began to practice meditation, the Buddha encouraged a strengthening of the ego so that it could learn to hold its primitive agonies without collapse.” The Trauma of Everyday Life, Mark Epstein

We’ve tried to ignore the primal agonies for so long. We’ve locked them away, and finally the lid on that box, just like Pandora’s, has burst open. We can’t work with the intensity of these energies on our own. We need to develop a lot of strength, love and intelligence, inside a relational space. When we become intimate enough with each other and with ourselves, we can learn to hold, presence and integrate these parts of our humanity that are primitive, instinctual, and chaotic. These energies feel overwhelming and threatening, until we find the strength to show up together, and face them, feel them, without judgment. Until we can do that, they will continue appearing as the destructive form of Kali. If we can hold them, respect them and ground them, they will become a power and strength in us we have never known before. We will need this love and this power, in order to face whatever the relentless force of evolution offers to us next.

Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night…
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

with love,


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Fred Pockrass

    Beautiful Shayla so clear and right to the heart of the matter. Sending you much love & many blessings.

  2. Carol Stewart

    Another great piece Shayla! The seeds of this chaos began earlier I believe…in the 60’s. I remember the “primal scream” therapy and the other wild forms of therapy that created a great deal of chaos but gave birth to so much more…to what may make us capable of turning to face what is coming. We are not pedestrians. resources are unearthed in the process to meet what is. I agree with you, an honest , bare-naked confrontation of all our feelings, sharing them with others with whom we are sharing this life, ultimately brings us closer and more capable of holding an ever deepening awakening among us.
    Thank you so much for all your wildness. .

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