• Natalie Backman

Breakdown or breakthrough?

I am the night,

the eternal darkness within.

I generate, venerate, and destroy.

I am that which burns away your ego and false sense of self.

I am fierce -

crashing through barriers

and breaking stereotypes.

I am ruthless and relentless.

I am full of an inexplicable love,

an everlasting fire,

a blade cutting away

all that is not needed

for you to embody your fullest self.

I see red.

Capitalize on my strength

and voracity,

dear one.

I shall not forsake you.

With the Autumnal Equinox, we mark two full seasons, come and gone, under the influence of COVID 19. Two seasons of breakdowns and breakthroughs. In a Tantric approach to life, we welcome it all... good and bad, sickness and health, honor and insult, creation and destruction, evolution, dissolution and everything between. 2020 has brought them all in spades. This may very well be the most challenging year of many of our lives, to date: a global pandemic, massive civil unrest, international alienation, political mayhem, economic collapse, an array of natural disasters. And I suspect we’re still just warming up. For those of us who turn to contemplation in the face of confrontation, all of this begs the question: WHY?

For me, there is always a why. Why this? Why here? Why now? What is the purpose and how can I align myself with this purpose rather than exhaust myself struggling against it?

Leading up to 2020, as a species we were on a crash course destined for disaster. Most of us were going about our lives blissfully ignorant to our impending doom. Our mindless relationship with our planet, our fellow beings and most significantly, ourselves, was destructive and unsustainable. Climate crisis, systemic oppression, racism on a global level, economic disparity...none of these things are new. They were just as bad in 2019 as they are now. The difference, I pray, is our increased awareness. COVID 19 has forced upon us a season of reflection. Some of us have opened ourselves to this reflection, horribly uncomfortable as it may be, in the interest of individual and collective evolution. Others, as we have witnessed, are digging into their illusion, their hate, their fear, with more conviction than ever. What is the impact of these choices? One leads to breakthroughs. The other to complete and utter breakdowns. One gives us a fighting chance of emerging stronger, more gracious and more peaceful than ever. The other leads to perpetual suffering. Which do you choose?

The poem above is an expression of love in its most ferociously compassionate form. It is the love of the Goddess, Kali Ma. Mother Kali. Kali the ferocious, relentless, take-no-prisoners, destroyer of ignorance, illusion and distorted self-identity. She is a berserker and She is here to set us free. She leaps into our lives fangs bared and dripping blood, wild eyed, slashing our precious attachments and aversions to ribbons, dancing on the dead bodies of our arrogance and pride, bellowing her battle cry. And spoiler alert, she won’t stop until our demons are not only defeated, but decimated.

All of this in the name of love. The kind of love we see exhibited in a parent who finds their beloved child on a path of self-destruction and intercedes in a wild rage fueled by devastating devotion and an instinctual drive to preserve and protect. We, Her wayward children, don’t realize the extreme sacrifices she makes on our behalf. Instead we lash out at the unfairness of it all.

Have you been lashing out? Or burying your head in the sand, waiting for the storm to pass? Have you been pining for the way things were, blind to the truth that they’ve slipped into the nevermore? Or have you received this opportunity to pause, to consider, to reflect? Have you allowed yourself to wallow in this discomfort, asking of it, “what is here for me to learn?”


What is Kali fighting so ferociously to free us from? What is the nature of our collective and individual chains? Where have we sunk so completely into ignorance, suffocating on our own selfishness, that She has to wrench us out by the hair, thump us hard on the back and startle us into breathing again? Spoiler alert number two, the more we resist Her fierce saving grace, the more She will persist and the lessons will only get bigger and more abrasive. Are you prepared for that? Because if we don’t get it together soon, that’s what’s coming.

So what can you do instead? You can wake up. Rise early and often. Greet the day with humility, courage, compassion and a desire to create a more sustainable way to move forward within yourself and within the world. Work with Kali, not against Her. Offer gratitude for the loving way She destroys what is holding you back from your full potential, a genuinely free and fulfilling life. Acknowledge your limitations, your opportunities for growth, and step courageously into and through them. Invite your pain to the surface and resolve to make peace with it, no matter what, no matter how long it takes. If you don't, I promise, it will hound you to the end of your days.

2020 is a time of reckoning. How long this reckoning lasts and how intense it becomes is in large part up to us. What will this season hold for you? Breakdown? Or breakthrough.

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