Who is Durga?

A while back I had a flash of recognition and inspiration when I saw an image of an eight-armed Hindu goddess, serene and strong, with a meditative smile that seemed to say “bring it on” to the universe.

I’m not Hindu but the image of this strong woman with her arc of eight arms arrested me. Maybe even because she wasn’t a diety for me, I saw her first and foremost as a woman, holding her own in a moment of chaos with grace and beauty. Something about the iconography of her multiple arms, which for a student of Western art history like I was, created and still does create a dynamism and sense of being in many places at once. But she did it with a smile. And her smile invited me to a completely new way of being.

Examining this self-assured glowing goddess riding astride a fierce tiger while conquering a demon that threatened to unravel the universe, I saw in her a role model, an inspiration for a way of being in my experience of being a mother.

Here’s a bit of her story:

Durga is a mother goddess who can redeem in situations of utmost distress. She is an embodiment of creative feminine force, existing in a state of svatantrya (total independence) and fierce compassion. Durga manifests fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor, even during spiritual battles of epic proportion.Durga

Since then, I’ve found myself inspired by Durga to reflect on what weapons I couldn’t live without. I quickly realized that because I’m a lover not a fighter, (as I described in another earlier post about my anti-Mamma Bear status), I was inspired to conjure up a list not of weapons, but of tools.

Like many parents of kids with special needs, I have a kick-ass toolbox filled with tools honed and sharp, ready to be wielded at a moment’s notice, so that in any given situation — whether the demon is fear, exhaustion, lack of cash, bureaucrats, gatekeepers, odd-ball comments from strangers or five extra pounds weighing me down — I have a huge selection of highly specialized implements available to get the job done. Some tools are universal, some are personal. Some are physical objects, some are virtues. Some I’ve mastered, and let’s consider others to be on my wish list.

Durga’s toolbox has come to be a theme of my blog, though not every entry contains one. Other posts are simply reflections, a chance to think long and deep about one particular slice of my experience, hopefully long enough to get unstuck from it and take what lessons there are, if any.

I’m curious about your tools too. I want to hear about what tools you have up your eight (or 10 or 327) sleeves to keep you strong, courageous, joyful and compassionate. Please share!

And to those for whom Durga is a diety, I hope I have communicated how much she has inspired me. If I have somehow communicated disrespectfully, I appreciate in advance any generosity of spirit you might have in reading this.

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  1. One valuable tool I couldn’t do without is my little note book. Every time Adam is hospitalized or he has a doctors appointment or an IFSP I use the notebook for questions comments concerns or notes. I’d be lost without my notebook. I also have a binder that holds all labs referrals, Educations plans or resources.

    1. Yes, definitely, the tracking of all of this information is critical. I have a binder for health, a binder for school and a bunch of old binders/files in the basement for older stuff. Sometimes I fall off the wagon for a few months and let things pile up–and I always feel really anxious that I’m going to lose or forget something. Good for you for finding a system that works. And thanks for reminding me–I should probably do a post about this.

  2. her journey starts with the heart, incidently , all the positions of weapons(a symbol of boundary) and hands are meaningful, if you notice the lower most hand(a symbol of rest) is in blessing mode and carries a symbol of time and four directions. sometimes when you bring your mood up , you have to defend yourself or may be just avenge your old anger(peace has a cost). I had never recognized, what happens when peace fails, even your genetics(the specs of gold in the white person’s hair, the eye colour) has origin in her. to be politically incorrect, somebody said the white is a demon on this earth, may be not on Venus but. But I am a demon today, all indian boys go hot for blondes(sexy is blonde), I never got a chance to try 🙁 🙁 :)))))

  3. As someone who is fighting for my own autistic family member AND a fellow Durga fan, I enjoy seeing this blog. I also think you write wonderfully and I love reading your posts as you talk about the special challenges we face and the great techniques you have to overcome them.

    Just a teensy thing here: I’m not just a fan of Durga but an actual devotee of Durga. She’s real, not a quaint piece of folklore honoring the divine feminine. She’s truly the all-powerful, all-protective mother goddess, and I’ve felt her actual, divine presence in my life. And your life, from what I’ve seen on this blog, DOES resemble her character and power! You’re great! But I would definitely try to avoid comparing yourself to her in ways that disregard her divinity – like calling her an over caffeinated righteous mama or replacing her attributes with modern things like cell phones. 🙂

    You have found another follower of your blog – please keep writing!

    1. I truly appreciate your taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. I have really wrestled with this issue and wondered how it’s perceived by Durga devotees. I went back and tried to edit the page in response to what you said. I truly don’t compare myself to her (in my mind) but understand how it could have seemed so on the page. It doesn’t feel perfect and I imagine it will take me many edits to get this right.

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