I write this blog exactly half-way through delivering my current Dancing the Goddess workshop series.
For those of you who’ve somehow missed out on hearing about it, this is a creation of my heart and soul: a transformational embodiment experience of connecting with the energy and gifts of the Divine Feminine through sacred circle, dance, meditation and mantra.
It’s proving to be a super-powerful experience for all us, as the energy of each Goddess has been palpable – not only during the workshop – but rippling out into our lives.
Key to this experience, I believe, is the preparation I make in order to create the space, which includes reading about and tuning into each Goddess, chanting Her mantra & creating an intuitively inspired play-list in the preceding week(s).
Now this week, as we prepare to dance with Sita – one of the greatest female Hindu icons - I’m noticing a LOT of feelings rising up for me.
Even though we’ve danced with bloodthirsty Kali, warrioress Durga (as well as ecstatically abundant Lakshmi, yogic Parvati and intuitively inspired Saraswati) none of these Goddesses has brought up such dark emotion for me as Sita!
In brief, I’ve struggled to even want to connect with Her, having read Her story of unrequited love and suffering.
Having, in blissful ignorance, chanted and danced to Rama and Sita mantras – which I’d perceived as the ultimate divine love couple – on numerous occasions, I’ve been floored to discover how Rama treated Sita and find myself enraged at his heartless, brutal treatment of Her.
Though theirs is touted as a “love” story, it’s not one I’d want to hold up as a model to anyone. The Ramayana (their epic tale) weaves instead, the patriarchal narrative of feminine purity and wifely submission, at any cost, including self-immolation. Sita is the long-suffering wife, who nobly embraces abduction, estrangement, injustice and abandonment at the hands of her husband, though she has done no wrong, and remains faithful and devoted throughout.
I’m already in revolt against this, but even worse is the knowing that she is still held up as an ideal for Hindu and Indian women in the modern day. Of course, this is the perfect justification for abuse and dishonouring - ridiculously in the name of family (read male line) honour. As a passionate advocate of the Awakening Feminine and one, who has herself experienced abuse in relationship, this is something I simply cannot tolerate.
Much as I have burned and sweated my prayers to know Divine Union, both as an internal and external reality, I will never ever submit to anyone but the God within and most certainly never again to any man.
And I can see how this archaic narrative perpetuates the destructive pattern still so prevalent amongst women, of pining for the unavailable man or believing they should tolerate heartache or mistreatment in the name of love.
As Chuck Spezzano says, “if it hurts, it isn’t love”.
So how to engage with Sita’s story and find relevance, meaning and empowerment for today?
Awakening Shakti author, Sally Kempton, urges us to dig deeper and find the ecstasy in selfless devoted service, the passive womb-like holding of pure love and the grace of deep compassion.
Now this I can relate to. The unconditional love that flows through me to my children and always puts them first. The profound peace and bliss I experience in tending to my Mum, who has dementia. The ache in my heart for others’ suffering.
Yet somehow this understanding still wasn’t enough for me to really feel connected to Sita. Her passivity made me feel scratchy and impatient.
So I pulled a card from my Divine Feminine oracle and got Lilith. I laughed out loud. For her story is the exact opposite of Sita’s.
Lilith was Adam’s first wife, but when he expected her to be subservient to him, she refused and left. “She is the woman who refused to be dominated or defined by anyone or anything outside of her.”
OK. Now we’re talking.
As I sat and meditated with this energy, yet held an enquiry into Sita alongside it, an interesting thing began to happen.
Suddenly, it wasn’t Sita’s passivity that struck me, but her strength!
She had been abducted, tempted by demons, walked through fire and then abandoned and left to raise two valiant sons single-handedly (yes, an archetypal single Mum!).
Through all of this, she had kept her heart open and loved. She had not raged. She had not blamed. She had not given up. She had not crumbled or gone mad.
She had retained her dignity. And when Rama finally came back to claim her, rather than cause a scene, she calmly took her place on her throne and was swallowed back up into the earth. She chose to leave. And she left as a Queen.
It is said that Rama mourned her for the rest of his life. Without the Feminine, he was nothing.
Looking at the story this way, casts a whole different perspective on the power play.
We see, for example, that patriarchal masculinity literally drives the Feminine away and causes suffering and isolation for both men and women.
But we can also appreciate the immense gift of Sita to LOVE. In a way, she was the embodiment of the spiritual adage that “if you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.”
She was able to love without expectation or judgement, even in the face of the cruellest treatment and most painful suffering.
Once again, I would never want this story to be used to justify abuse.
But in my own case, I can see how my desire to be love, eventually bore fruit. Although there were many moments with my ex both during our relationship and in my subsequent healing that felt like emotional, spiritual and physical hell, I never closed my heart.
And, eventually, as I processed my experience, what emerged in me was a deeper sense of self-love and communion with the Divine than I have ever known.
Yes, I could surrender to LOVE.
Yes, I could offer all the longing in my heart to God.
Yes, I could vow to honour my inner masculine with all that I am.
And in this I am finding more peace and love available to share with all.
But, just like Lilith, never will I submit to a man – or indeed any external power.
Sita can be a tricky archetype for us to embody and find alignment with in the modern day, but even in Her triggering of our reaction against misogyny, domination and control, or our empathy for suffering, she is working Her magic.
I wonder how Her story and energy of selfless service and loving devotion touches you?