Jai Mata, Jai Kali, Durga Devi Namo Namaha. Jai Mata, Jai Kali, Durga Devi Namo Namaha. Shakti Kundalini, Jagadumbe Mata! Shakti Kundalini, Jagadumbe Mata!
Upon finding her seal skin, the Selkie is now in search of her sisters to take her back to the sea, back to her true self. She searches high and low and sings a sweet song to the animals for help. She asks dragonfly and blackbird who tell her to board a plane. She asks horse and dog who tell her to leave behind unwanted belongings, she speaks to frog and newt who tell her to meet their cousin Gecko in Bali. “There you will meet your sisters, and there you will know your heart.” they say. The Selkie brings her best friend Phoenix along to experience the journey too!
Having just left a long term partnership and life back in Devon, UK in the summer of 2018 and with no responsibilities and a small lump sum of savings. I took a calculated risk to do something big, beautiful and life changing for myself and that was to go to Bali and attend a Women’s circle facilitator training with The Be Woman Project in February 2019. I spent the summer months living with friends and working super hard to save up and left Plymouth in the beginning of December. I lived with family over the winter months and left for Bali on the 23rd February with my best friend. It was our first holiday together made extra special because she was granted a scholorship on the Be Durga training. I couldn’t afford to pay for everything but I wanted her to experiance this training, she’s done so much for me over the years and with Sharada’s help, I was able to bring her. We didn’t actually get to spend a lot of time together but that was OK, both of us are very individualistic and at times desire our own space to reflect on things, we shared the same room but I wanted her to have the freedom to make friends and have her own unique experience without me attached to her hip. We did manage to get a few pictures together though.
Previously to this training, I attended the Be Laksmi training in September 2018 in Ibiza. The Be Laksmi training was the introduction and a deepening to goddess symbolism in Hindu philosophy, Vedanta and Mantra. Essentially these training retreats are steeped in yogic philosophy specific to women which is perfect for me as a freelance yoga teacher, I am fully aware that yoga is not just asana, yoga is exceptionally vast, you don’t just do yoga, you live it, it is a spiritual practice, it is a lifestyle within Ayurveda. Attending the Be Laksmi training gave me an insight into the yogic world of the sacred feminine or in psychological terms- the archetypal imagery within and around us all, much like dream symbolism.
Through the power of story and metaphor, they bring our psychology to life so that we better understand our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. Most importantly through understanding different archetypes we are able to get in touch with – and heal our relationship to – different parts of ourselves and others.
Goddess Archetypes comes from Jungian Psychology (which has been inspired by ancient stories from cultures all over the world) and is about harnessing many aspects of our femininity that work together in harmony to heal wounds, find abundance and support us in our daily lives, we hold ourselves up by their wisdom and power.
Hence why I felt attending my first training with the Be Woman Project as important, not only to my growing knowledge of yogic philosophy but also for my well-being after a difficult break up from a long term relationship. On top of that it would give me the skills needed to set up my own circles as a yoga and holistic teacher.
Soon after the first training, I felt that I wanted to do a second. The first was brilliant however I couldn’t fully engage in all the classes due to my volunteer placement helping the chef in exchange for being on the training. There is a new scholorship program now created that has better balance for those who wish to attend one of these trainings and are struggling financially.
I opted to attend the Be Durga training in Bali as that is where I was also doing my 200 hour yoga teacher training, planning to do both in the same country meant I could really settle in one place and truly deepen my knowledge but also have time alone. This time I was able to afford to to go because between September and February I worked like a dog to save and to manifest it.
About the Training
The Be Durga training held in Bali is all about exploring the qualities of the goddess Durga (and Kali) within yourself but also within the community of women in our lives. As well as this, we were guided to heal certain mile stones in our lives like our birth, menarche, marriage etc to then create sacred ceremony for these important times in order to facilitate them in our own women’s circles. In psychology this is all about validating the important milestones which is actually very important to human behaviour and wellbeing. To this day, tribes in the rainforest still hold ceremony for boys and girls who come of age, there is even a tribe that celebrate an individual who is depressed! In the West we have lost the capacity to do this. When children are born they are showered with gender specific toys than flowers and love, when its a child’s first day of school or first award all they recieve is a well done and a photo on facebook, during the first bleed a girl is told to shove a tampon up there, she is not celebrated for her first day into womanhood, marriage has become a celebration of wealth and material posessions rather than love and death is taboo and only dealt with for one day, where everyone is dressed in black and the body is shoved in a box. These practices are so shallow and rather demeaning of an individual’s soul journey through that particular life. What a waste.
In spiritual practises of Buddhism and Hinduism, specific rights of passage are enjoyed and validated, they are sanctified as something special which in turn makes the individual feel special.
Who is Durga and Kali?
Durga is the fearless protectress, courageous mother goddess who rides a tiger (or lion) into battle. She is a dharmic heroine who follows through with what she believes in as a leader but paves the way and protects those in need of her strength during turbulent times. She protects people who follow universal values and removes pain through knowledge. Women who embody this archetype are usually inspiring leaders and healthy mentors.
Kali is she who wields time, she who embraces growth and change. She is also the destructive principle and seen as a dark goddess. Not dark because she is evil, but dark because of her deep intuition, primal instinct and she embraces her shadows. She is ready to die (or allow for things in her life to die-to let go, to cut the cord) in order to be reborn and live fully.
And so in the Be Durga training we are encouraged to embody these strong mother dieties to essentially take the lead, to mother ourselves and to “mother” the women in our own sharing circles- we embody our leadership and mentoring qualities when we go out into the world to facilitate our own red tents and goddess gatherings.
Each day of the training was centred on a particular time in a persons life. The first day focussed on Birth and so Sharada and Janaki facilitated sharing circles for all of us to share our birth stories with each other. When one woman talks, the rest of us just listen empathically, then when she is finished she is encouraged to bless herself with water, flowers, anointing oil and kumkum powder to mark her healing and to show she is finished with what she has to say. In the afternoon Sharada leads a Hindu Birthing ceremony to further heal and validate our stories but also to teach us how to facilitate our own Birth ceremony for others.
Not all stories are to heal from. My birth story was a difficult one- I nearly died but another’s story like my best friends is a joyful story of love, her birth was planned as was her two younger siblings. She talked about how both parents wanted all three of them and how incredible her mum is as a gorgeous stay at home mum, the epitome of Demeter- the mother goddess of the earth and of children. And so this does not make my story more important than my best friend’s because mine was traumatic, it is about truly listening to each other’s different experiences and from this you come to an understanding that, if “I was you, I’d react the same way”, therefore having this awareness there is no judgement.
The next day centered on Study, primarily the first day of school. Sharada held a sharing circle in the morning, we also had daily yoga classes specific to women’s bodies- predominantly womb yoga which focussed on the 4 seasons. In the afternoon a ceremony dedicated to Sarasvati the goddess of learning, creativity and knowledge was enacted.
On the third day we celebrated our menarches in which we all wore red and we were showered with rose petals. On the fourth day we celebrated marriage and on the sixth day we celebrated death. Each right of passage was given a sharing circle and ceremony.
As well as these circles and ceremonies and morning yoga classes we had guest teachers visit to give talks and small workshops. One woman gave a talk about being a birthing doula, another was an Ayurvedic doctor who brought us to her clinic to give 3 afternoon lectures and lastly a Shaman named Valerie who studied with a Native American holyman of the Pachakuti Mesa tradition, who taught us a medicine wheel workshop to connect with mother earth, a guided meditation to meet our power animals and a trance dance meditation class to connect with our bodies whilst blindfolded.
as well as all of the above, Sharada gave talks on Durga as Dharma, Ahimsa, Ritual, Sanskrit, Sacred spaces, Vaidika, and the sacred feminine in the vedic tradition.
The whole ten days was just magical, being connected to such incredible, empowering, complex women every day in a temple-like environment helped me find peace, helped me love myself and tuned me into the sacred feminine. I am so thankful for the love and support from this beautiful group of women, I think of them all every day and send out so much gratitude and reverence to them in my morning prayers…
The last three days of the training, focussed on our “exams”. Separated into 6 small groups we were asked to lead our own ceremony from a rite of passage we learned about. My group facilitated the Menarche ceremony or the Ritu Kala Samskara Puja which translates to “The beginning of menstruation”. I loved this because it was a direct link to my exam class during my teen yoga teacher training back in 2017 where I lead a small yoga class specific to the moon time- I incorporated bolsters, pink and red flowers, poetry, soft music and chocolate into that class and it felt like coming full circle to facilitate a ceremony about the menarche with the Be Woman Project. This has inspired my own project that I am currently working on!
My best friend was in the death ceremony group and she felt that that ritual and group was fitting to her right now in her life. Before Sharada put us into the groups I also felt called to the death ceremony because a lot of aspects to my old way of life had died and I had let go so I resonated with that energy. However, the menarche ceremony was perfect for me, especially with the direction I wish to go as a yoga and holistic teacher. And Nic is training to be a counselor and counselors do help their clients safely through emotional traumas and grief so actually being grouped in the death ceremony was perfect for her and her future career path.
My time with the Be Woman project has physically come to an end and I once again achieved a certificate to showcase my abilities to facilitate my own women’s circles. I may attend the third training called Be Sarasvati one day but I believe I would consider that more of a retreat for myself as a form of sacred study and self reflection which is interesting sinse Sarasvati embodies that energy anyway.
I felt the Be Laksmi training was both an introduction into the world of goddesses in the vedic vision but also a deepening into yogic philosophy and my own spiritual practice. The Be Durga training truly emphasized this and brought out the confidence in me to put my knowledge into practice. Alongside being a qualified Ayurvedic yoga teacher of all ages and a Reiki teacher I feel very awake to my potential now to lead incredible workshops and trainings centred on women’s health and well-being.
The Be Woman Project has also changed my spirituality ever so slightly. I no longer look to fortune tellers and tarot readers for answers, my practice has become solitary and devotional, I do invite others to share but I’m discovering that what I seek is within me and around me in nature and the cosmos. When I did my yoga teacher training soon after I realized I’m a Bhakti Yogi- a yogi of love and devotion and I have become very interested in Mantra and Kirtan.
Because of the Be Woman Project my loving energy has heightened ten fold. My Dharma (my life purpose) is to walk with love, to be a loving being to all beings. I know this as a Libra, as a person passionate about mental health, as a yogi and as someone who is also romantic! The Be Woman Project has also empowered me to be unafraid to enjoy beauty and being beautiful. For too long people have told me that because I’m beautiful that I shouldn’t enjoy my beauty as that would make me vain, or that I shouldn’t enjoy beautiful things because that makes me materialistic. Sacred beauty is about cherishing the beauty within the mundane, the sweetness of a flower and the radiance of the sunset- that is the type of beauty I love!
So I walk this earth being loving no matter what and bringing sacred beauty into my every day life!
The Be Woman Project has changed my life and helped me on my healing journey. I feel that Sharada’s teachings have truly awakened a side to me that has been repressed for so long. And all the women I met have been encouraging, sweet, respectful and uplifting to spend time with and that is sadly a rarity in this world where women on a daily basis are encouraged to compete with each other, gossip, cause drama and allow jealousy to poison peoples lives.
Yet we can discover that the source of love, security and happiness that we seek in life is myself (yourself) and that I (we) have all the ingredients that are required to live a fulfilling and content life.
Read my story about the Be Laksmi Training here: Be Laksmi training 2018
Read my interview with Sharada, Founder of the Be Woman Project here: Sharada’s inteview
Links to learn more about The Be Woman Project are below:
Be Woman Project Website: Be Woman Project
Be Woman Project Facebook group: Be Woman Sisterhood
Be Woman Project Instagram: Be Woman Project Instagram