As I sit here on a pack of ice trying to prod this energy in my lower back to move, I am contemplating the magical time I spent in Encinitas this month. I am on the last day of a three-week trip.
Many of you know I have spent over a decade studying with Tim Miller in Encinitas, CA. I have made at least ten extended trips to practice and study with this legendary teacher, who through hard work and dedication has earned every bit of recognition. He is a shining example to us all.
This trip, above all others, has been the best by far. Tim’s great Light has collected 40 Advanced Ashtanga Yoga practitioners to gather in one space for perhaps the first Third Series Teacher Training ever.
It felt like a festival for advanced practitioners. The Mysore room was off the chain! The vibration was so high I have no other way to explain how I felt other than fried.
It was like being in the cooking pot with the temperature cranked up. I felt our accumulated experience and knowledge was present enhancing everyone’s experience. Even Tim’s regular local students were happily surprised. Usually, they felt invaded with the increase in crowds during trainings. This time several of them told me they welcomed us. Our energy was positive and the students were humble and kind. Tim has a way of drawing the highest quality in heart towards him. It also shows that the practice done correctly might actually work.
My personal experience was that, very personal, and I would like to share….
There were many factors leading up to the great breakthrough I experienced. The past year has been especially challenging for me. I seemed to be on a high as I reached my tenth year of practice, then suddenly it got really hard again. The challenges seemed to increase. Several of my good friends and support system were one-by-one moving away. I felt a great sense of loss and had to face my attachments.
I arrived in Encinitas feeling weak, yet open. Strangely quiet. Tim has known me and watched me grow for many years. I would say he knows me well. We had the chance to talk about the way I was feeling, and I was surprised when he said, “You seem good to me.” The lesson…difficult places in your journey often make you ripe for deeper revelation…
Surrounded by my girlfriends, yogi peers, and companions, joy came back to my heart. I could not be sad. It was starting to lift.
Practice was so intense and amazing. Tim started me on 4th series!
Ok…this is good!
One day in class we were talking about deities and there was something I had been wondering about. The past year had been really hard and one new thing I had done was get a Kali statue in my studio. In the back of my mind I had been wondering if that had anything to do with the constant loss. I had been warned about the strength and power of this Goddess.
For those of you who are not familiar with Kali, the word Kali means “time.” She is the Mistress of Time, a female manifestation of the destructive energy of the Divine Triad, wife to Lord Shiva. She is usually found in the funeral ground standing on the prostrate body of her husband Shiva. She is depicted with dark blue or black skin, four arms, the right side promises fearlessness and boons, and the left holds a bloody sword and a freshly severed human head. The Goddess is naked other than a necklace of skulls and a skirt made of human arms cut off at the elbow. Her tongue is sticking out; she has three eyes, the third one stands for wisdom; and long disheveled black hair. She is the destroyer of demons and helps to hack away unproductive mental patterns and attachments. This is very helpful in our spiritual path and definitely explains the sudden loss of my many attachments! She is an embodiment of pure Shakti and empowerment.
I raised my hand and asked Tim if it was possible that having a Kali statue in my studio could be causing problems. He replied by saying he does not know, but personally, he does not have one in his studio. It is not his favorite depiction of the Divine Mother.
The next day I called one of my teachers and asked him if he would please remove Kali from the studio. I gave him instructions on how to do this.
Two hours later another student in the training approached me and said, “I don’t think you should give up on Kali if you feel inclined towards her. She is the Mother. All the Gods and Goddesses are good. There is a Kali Temple in Laguna Beach. Maybe you should go find out more about her.”
I went to the website to check it out, and the student who offered me this insight knew one of the men who lives there. He offered to take me up there my first time.
Unsuspectingly, I walked into the Temple and sat in front of the altar. I felt a strong energy field. This altar was alive like I had never felt before. Energy was coming at me strongly, then spontaneous insights started, they came rapidly…
The first thing I felt and saw was my human Mother. I felt the way she loves me and let it in. Kali was showing me / relating to me how to love her. She is the Divine Mother. She is Ma. We are her children.
Then I saw inside my Heart. Whoa! I saw the restlessness and understood why it has taken me so long to settle. It allowed me a chance to forgive myself and accept my path for exactly what it is. I saw the way out of my head. It is to go into my Heart. I saw what my real pain is, and I realized I must soothe these waters if I want to go further with my spiritual development. It all came in a flash. The tears started…
We walked in the gardens with his friend who is a beautiful musician and kirtan singer. He performed at the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence one year I was there. We stayed for a bajan and ceremony, meditated longer, bought some supplies to help me continue my studies, and went home. My ears were buzzing on the car ride home.
The next morning I was inspired and like a fountain could not stop outpouring a stream of internal realization. It started before I left the house.
I was late to pranayama. I decided not to push myself into the circle and instead tried to meditate. My body was tired and I felt overwhelmed with what I was processing. I felt beyond fried. Deep down I knew that practice was not coming.
I tried. I tried to practice. I even did 3rd series. The month before the trip I was struggling to take an inhalation. It was great labor to breathe in. This day, it had reached an all time difficulty. I asked Tim, “What does it mean when you can’t take an inhalation?” He said, “You are afraid of life.”
That was it! I got to Ganda Bherundasana and my back was so tight. I had enough! I did some finishing poses and lay down for Savasana. I rolled up my mat and walked out quietly. Tim came out to the lobby and asked, “Are you ok?”
“I went to the Kali Temple, and I realized my Heart for the first time in my life, and I see why I have not been living there, but now I am awake to it…I think I may have realized my Ishta Devata.”
Tim smiled and said, “This is a good thing.”
I said, “How can I bring this together? There is a lot to resolve in my heart.”
He said, “Keep walking through Hell.” Then he told me to go to the beach. He said he would bring me a book. We hugged, and I told him I would see him tomorrow.
So it is done! My life, forever changed. I spent the rest of the day trying to ground. For the next 48 hours I experienced a blissful state that felt like a very big ultra-sensory high. I had been touched by Spirit. Chosen by Kali.
It is true what every teacher says that has found the manifestation of their Inner Being. You DO NOT get to choose who you want to be. You are chosen. Tim always jokes about how you do not get to flip through the book on deities and go…”I like Krishna. Maybe, it is Krishna.” It doesn’t work like that. When you know, you know! They choose you. Personally, I felt like I got zapped. Tim said I must have needed to get zapped. Lol!
I have waited many years for this. I clearly remember a few years back visiting Encinitas. Tim told me to ask my Ishta Devata for guidance in a matter. I was frustrated because I wasn’t even there yet! He said, “Michelle, remember my story. It took me a long time and a lot of searching to find out.”
I chose to stay in Encinitas longer than most of the students in Teacher Training, because I knew I needed time to integrate. It grew quiet at the Shala and I had the space to rest and contemplate.
I went back to the Kali Temple one more time before I left. This time, like the Yoga Shala, the Temple was quiet and I had the opportunity to speak to the woman who lives on the grounds and takes care of most things. She said to me, “It is nice to be called upon. I am glad you are back. Kali chooses who she wants. Now she is going to make you work!”
Of course! That is what I am good at. Working…
She sent me home with great resources and many ideas for how to integrate my love for Kali into my spiritual path and my studio.
What I have learned is that many people misunderstand this powerful Goddess. She is powerful and can be ferocious when she is protecting her cubs, but she is also kind, loving, and nurturing. She is Ma. Divine Mother. I feel a great peace and stability that was not there before. I can rest in the Divine Mother’s Grace. I can ask her questions if I could just learn to listen. I also feel I have greater access to a stream of knowledge associated with this powerful Goddess. I can work with her to further my psychological and spiritual development.
The woman who runs the temple told me, “Kali is ferocious if you are a demon. If you are not, she is very, very kind and nurturing.”
This will take me a long time to truly understand. It is a personal experience and relationship that is unique to the individual. I am thankful. I believe it is the beginning of a deeper devotional practice. I understand on a new level “Isvara pranidhana va,” which means, “Or the goal can be achieved by surrender to the Great Spirit.” This surrender is a key component of the spiritual path. It creates an opening so Grace can truly enter.
The woman at the temple continued by telling me, “Congratulations Michelle. You have graduated to the next level of your spiritual path.” I feel this. I feel blessed, inspired, and refreshed. I have a new direction for myself and my students. I feel I am in Love all over again.
Get ready everyone! Ma is coming home with me! The studio already started taking a new shape before I left with my redecorating project. I think this is just the beginning. It was suggested to me to do monthly gatherings. I am coming home with a new vision.
Jai Ma! Blessed be the Great Mother, Mother to All!
“The Divine Mother’s magic is as ancient as life itself. She existed before gods and mortals, and She will still exist even after the Great Dissolution. Mother is pure energy in subtle form but, in times of need or just out of a desire to play, She manifests.”
What a perfect gift for our 10th year anniversary at the studio which we will be celebrating on Saturday, November 21 at 6:30 pm, with a special guest kirtan band called PranaMuktiBhakti from the Hampton Roads area. This event is free of charge. Any donations you feel inspired to give will go to the band. I hope everyone can make it.
For more information about the studio visit our website: www.ashtangayogaobx.com
Owner, Director, Teacher – Ashtanga Yoga Center, Outer Banks, NC