Hello everyone! Here is an abridged version of my writing assignment, which ended up being too long for the discussion board -- sometimes I fail at writing succinctly. 😅 I'm pretty shy when it comes to discussing Maa and my relationship with Her, so this is really rather focused on my experiences. --- I've been a 'goddess worshipper' for most of my life. I was introduced to the pagan community and my first teacher in my late teens. I gravitated towards the goddess spirituality movement and developed a relationship with "the dark goddess". I joined a coven, entered priestess training, and eventually founded a goddess temple in Asheville, NC. I have always had a more devotional nature, and eventually moved away from the goddess spirituality movement as I knew it. Kali first entered my life in 2010, just after I moved to San Francisco. I came across some research and began studying more about Kali and the philosophy of tantra. I was invited to puja with Chandra Alexandre and SHARANYA. I was intrigued and eagerly attended puja. I had never experienced such joy and devotion and power in a ritual before. Looking back, Kali knocked at my heart that day, but I was too distracted to let Her in. But, I continued with some casual studies and my regular spiritual practice, gently 'testing the waters' of relationship with this awe-inspiring goddess.
By 2015 Kali was taking a more central place in my life. Suddenly, I was invited to India to work on a gender-based violence project. I was to spend about two weeks in India, with plans to be in Kolkata and Ranchi. I had dreamed of going to India for a very long time and was completely shocked by the opportunity and very nervous – it was my first time traveling internationally.
It was whirlwind trip. I arrived in India alone and felt both deeply unsettled and inexplicably settled; overcome by the people and sounds and new experiences, but also feeling a very deep sense of peace and belonging. I definitely struggled at times, and felt myself unraveling a bit. I prayed to Maa for grace and guidance. Things got a little easier and I settled into the experience.
I had the opportunity to visit Umanada Island and Kamakhya Temple in Assam, and Kalighat in Kolkata. Each of these experiences watered the seeds of devotion growing in my heart.
When I returned home, I made a home for my new murtis on the shrine and tried to integrate my experiences. I deepened in my sadhana and had a few very intense visions and dreams of Kali. I wasn’t really sure what any of it meant, but I felt like a fire had been stoked, and nothing felt the same.
A month later that fire started to rage through my life. My sister died suddenly, and Kali Ma became my only solace and refuge. I spent hours in front of Her shrine, crying and praying and sitting. I then entered initiation-track training with SHARANYA, but experienced a severe injury just as training began and was unable to walk for a few months; being stuck at home meant I had nothing to do but study. A few months later, with Maa's grace and strength, I divorced my abusive spouse, packed up everything I owned, and bounced around for a while. I continued my training and decided to take diksha in August 2017. I received the name Śvetā (she who is white or pure), transliterated into Shveta. All of these experiences have brought me closer to Her. There is only Ma for me now. Over the past few years, devotion to Her has taught me that strength without surrender just makes me hard and strong-willed. I am constantly trying to remove the layers of resistance around my heart, opening myself to love Her more and more. I love what Usha Ma wrote in her article, that the goal is to become a lover and not the beloved. I have followed Kali Mandir online for a few years; I think the first time I learned about Kali Mandir was through Usha's book, which has long been a favorite. I definitely felt an attraction and when I found out about the seminary program, I knew this was the right next step on my path. I am grateful that this opportunity is offered even though I am a stranger to the temple and have yet to visit.