I feel impotent in my life. It has been this way ever since I can remember. How I think about it has changed with a tremendous amount of effort. A journey of healing that is in progress. Today, I would say that I struggle with "agency." The feeling of power in my actions to produce a particular outcome in my life. This is different from control over my life, which is a bit of a myth. Control over life belongs to a realm of greater forces beyond any human. Rightfully so. Agency is a capacity we cultivate. Agency is the capacity to meet what shows up in my life and look it dead in the eyes. Agency and a sense of internal empowerment go hand in hand.
As a women, a "colored" women, more precisely a "wheat-ish" women, I know the experience of disempowerment. It feels imposed on me. I only feel it as an absence of my on intrinsic experience of agency. It sits in me like self-inflicted victimhood which gets reconfirmed by the cultures around me. Perhaps it begins with being conceived female. An inheritance of sorts. I am deeply entangled in this collective perspective that is passed down from one generation to the next. Women are treated less than even if we are not. Inferiority seems to be the way it is. It is the air we breath. Inferiority is confirmed by the laws and policies created to protect our equality, but remain unratified and long ago expired along with the collective will to legitimize equity. When I meet highly successful women rising above the glass ceiling or young women unaware of the past, I hit doubt. Have these women evolved beyond the history? Are they an exception to the rule? The ones I think have achieved this, all paid a price. They sacrifice some aspect of their womanhood. The aftertaste of disempowerment lingers. I live those sacrifices too.
Some years ago, I became curious if women were historically ever eye to eye with their male counterparts. Are we evolving into equality are trying to heal something that broke? I began to look at the wisdom traditions of many of todays prominent religions, specifically the stories, the mythology to learn the origin stories of the Feminine. At first glance, the feminine seems to be disenfranchised from the beginning, especially in the stories of my roots in India. Yet, the Devi (Goddess), the ultimate expression of femininity remains so revered. Shakti (power) and the Devi are considered one. Spoken of and related to interchangeably. There are countless forms of the Devi who we see as many different Devis within Indian culture. Yet, it is one Devi with many different expressions. There is an ocean of difference between what women over generations have suffered and have come to believe about themselves compared to potential that the Devi models and the principles of the sacred feminine she teaches. There is no self-contained text of The Sacred Feminine. Just fragmented crumbs we get a whiff of in moments of luck.
So this is the journey. Returning to the origins of the Devi as a pilgrim to do what pilgrims do. Seek a blessing. It is an attempt to embody her wisdom and power in a way relevant to this age. To go beyond what feels impossible in my own life and within the adversity that many women communicate to me in my practice of obstetrics and gynecology around the world over these years. I am embarking on the possibility of living her Shakti as a healthy expression of my own agency. Communicate a healthy dynamic of power promising harmony with life and the difficulties that are intrinsic to womanhood. This trip is a flirtation with faith and devotion. A prayer for a direct experience of The Devi and what she represents through her enduring legacy.
Over the next year I will be traveling across South Asia, in a region known as the Indian Subcontinent to visit the 51 seats of Shakti (Shakti Peethas)as a pilgrim. Pilgrimages have been made to these temples of various aspects of the Devi going back before written history. Each Shakti Peeth and the temple standing upon it marks the parts of the Devi that fell to the earth from the cosmos during the early days of creation, thereby consecrating her divinity in them and embodying her own omnipotence in timelessness.
Next time... The origin story of the Devi manifested through the story of Sati. The catalyst for this trip.