The Goddess Kali
Helps Us Dance
with Hungry Ghosts of the Past
by Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway
you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as
well dance with it."
Every family has its dark secrets. And we all have
our elephants on the table – the issues that are so
obvious but which are never discussed, acknowledged or
healed. Many of our lives are shaped around
dysfunctional family backgrounds, and we tend to try to
disassociate from them, as we get older. It’s a good
idea to grow up and leave the past behind. But if we don’t
examine the pain of the past and make an attempt to heal
it, we will drag it with us through life … and hungry
ghosts of the past will plague us.
But what is scariest and most unsettling about a
hungry ghost from the past is we don’t really know
what it is—lost spirit or fiendish monster of our own
minds. All we know is that there is a presence that
somehow holds a power over us; we may not even know why.
So they become part of our shadow selves, and can
insidiously haunt our daily lives -- until we make a
decision to set them free. It’s a human impulse to run
from the darkness. Yet when you understand the truth
about the shadow, you will come to understand that running
from it does not bring you to safety – while running
to it and embracing it will. Like ghosts in the
attic, unresolved relationships and unsettled problems
of the past make a racket – until we learn to look
them square in the eye and say, "boo."
We have to be willing to step into the darkness in
order to own it, acknowledge it and begin to heal the
pain, fear, shame, perceived sins of the past that lurk
in the shadows.
Black Mother Goddess Kali is known as one of the most
powerful and most beloved spiritual allies of the Hindu
tradition. But Kali is also the universal mother. It is
believed that she goes into the darkness with us,
and for us, to swallow our sins, worries, and
concerns. She can show us how to radically transform our
lives by embracing our own darkness, rather than fearing
and fleeing from that which haunts us. She can
spiritually hack away at the handcuffs that keep us
shackled to the hungry ghosts of the past. There comes a
point in the process when you must surrender fully to
her healing powers, and let her bring you back cleansed,
represents the entire physical plane. She is the drama,
tragedy, humor, and sorrow of life. She is the brother,
father, sister, mother, lover, and friend. She is the
fiend, monster, beast, and brute … The full and
seductive, terrible and wonderful earth mother always
has something to offer." --Robert M. Pirsig,
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Also known as Kali Ma and the Black Mother, Kali is
the powerful Hindu Goddess who is in charge of darkness,
death and regeneration. Many people fear her because she
is so awesome looking, but Hindus love and adore her as
their great mother Goddess and they see her as a
manifestation of power that is fierce and potent. She is
shakti (female energy) incarnate and the
manifestation of primordial power. While she is the
consort of the great Lord Shiva, she is also seen
dancing wildly, with his form beneath her feet. They are
partners in darkness, and in dancing the dance of death
and regeneration. She brings life and death … she is
regeneration and rebirth. In many ways she is the
consummate representation of the classic power of the
Divine Female – the power to birth, to bring death to
the old and to regenerate. Her haunts are cremation
grounds, where she takes life, and then recycles it into
new life. Her symbol for cutting away at evil and
darkness is to behead humans, but what that image really
represents is the cutting away of the human ego and all
the problems it causes. She eats pain, and swallows
despair, and the secret shadows of our lives. She wipes
out oddball beliefs, worn out thoughts and constructs
that no longer serve us. She is a wild Goddess. Black
(or blue looking) and wearing a garland of skulls around
her neck, she has four arms; a symbol of domination over
the world. In one hand she holds a head dripping blood,
in the other three she wields various weapons. One of
her hands removes fear and another grants bliss. Her
tongue is sticking out and her eyes look wild.
How Kali can help us own up to our
- Admit we love our ghosts. Since our scariest
ghosts are usually people we love, know or have known,
it’s not easy to let them go. We know our ghosts
intimately; know the places they rattle their chains and
make windows and doors open to the frightening, howling
wind. We know the way they scare us, and how they are
likely to strike. We are familiar with the way they go
bump in the dark night of our souls. Sometimes we put
them there to cover up even deeper pain or to allow us
to avoid dealing with something uncomfortable. It is not
easy to give up our ghosts because we love them … or
we have become so accustomed to them that we fear what
life may be like without their racket and disruptions.
- Surrender to Divine Will. If you are in deep
pain about your past and truly yearn for liberation, you
can surrender it in its entirety to Goddess Kali, and to
the Divine Spirit of All That Is. There comes a point
when we must allow Her to decide how to handle
things because we are clueless and emotionally
paralyzed. Sometimes in order to gain everything, we
must loose everything and then build our lives anew. We
live in fear of the transition period--in which all
seems lost. We are too preoccupied with fear and guilt
to see our way clear. Surrender your problems and fears
and she will return them, transformed, and perhaps
unrecognizable--your life will be forever changed in an
empowering way. Kali can help you put life in
perspective. Call to her with this salutation
is only dark from a distance… as is our own shadow.
Many people fear her, as they do their own darkness.
This poem by Hindu Saint Ramakrishna Paramhansa
(1836-86) explains how the Black Mother looks fierce
before you get to know her, but she’s not so
intimidating on closer examination.
"To the Devi who abides in all
beings in the form of intelligence
Salutations to Her, Salutations to
Her, Salutations again and again."
People of the Hindu faith,
and practitioners who adapt Hinduism into their
spiritual practice, often honor the images of deities to
help them feel more connected and give them a ways to
focus. Place Kali’s image on the door of your
apartment--the way you would post a warning sign about
your alarm or watchdog--as a symbol that "this home
is protected from Hungry Ghosts" by Kali. If it’s
too intense outside, keep it on the inside of the door.
"Is Kali, my Divine Mother, of a
She appears black because She is
viewed from a distance;
but when intimately known She is no
The sky appears blue at a distance,
but look at it close by
and you will find that it has no
The water of the ocean looks blue at a
but when you go near and take it in
you find that it is colourless."
Be Liberated and Healed
on "Kali TV"—A Media Meditation
Kali demands that you face the truth. Daytime
television has become an American arm of Goddess Kali,
taking people through the darkness of family life and
digging up the old bones long buried in the back yard.
This gives all of us a chance for catharsis and release.
The father who drank, the mother who gambled, the uncle
who abused, the brother who drugged have all become
icons of day time TV, parading family problems across
the screen and showing us that we all have problems
and … there is always someone worse off. Crazy
as they may seem, they all reveal a little part of us,
and showcase their dramas and traumas on our behalf.
The cosmic talk show meditation. When you are
ready to meet your ghosts and transform your life, take
on the task of identifying your pain, and shame, and
freeing yourself by sharing it the way many people do
these days: By going on TV. Your TV show will be
in your mind and your studio will be entered through a
meditation. This is not a task for the meek-hearted
and is only suggested for those who are ready to
confront the hungry ghosts of the past. For this
exercise you will need a black candle, a TV set and some
will be undisturbed, pull up in front of your TV for
inspiration, but don’t turn it on. Think of some of
the talk shows that really try to help people work
through bizarre problems – such as the recently
cancelled Sally Jessy Raphael show, which inspired this
meditation, or Oprah--and create a composite talk show
host who embodies the qualities of Kali--harsh when she
has to be, honest to the bone, willing to take your hand
and lead you into darkness … and stand by to pull you
out when you have had your fill.
1. Sit down for the show of your life.
2. Light a candle to the shadow of shame. Before
you begin, light a black candle. Whatever
happened in your childhood is past, yet there is a part
of your mind that does not allow it to be put to rest.
It is like the talk show that never ends. It replays
like a movie, it comes up like a broken record, and it
can be so imbedded in your psyche that it runs your life
without you even realizing it. The process of shinning a
light into darkness takes longer than it ever took for
the original incident that changed your life, but you
must honor your own process of discovery and gain
insight. Begin by lighting a black candle. It represents
Kali Ma--the Dark Goddess--and it contains your shame,
pain, and your fear; your depression and sadness. As it
melts, it is symbolic of melting the darkness in you, so
you can see the light of any given situation. Imagine as
the candle melts down that Kali is taking in all the
blackness, so you no longer have to. Trust that she can
take all that, and more.
3. See yourself on the Kali Show. Sitting in a
comfortable position, with your feet on the ground to
anchor you, take three cleansing breaths and close your
eyes. Imagine you are at the "Kali Show,"
waiting back stage so she can introduce you. Feel any
nervousness you may have about going on TV to tell your
family secrets. See Kali come out, to audience applause.
Notice that she is not as scary as you thought, or as
big. She seems tough and yet kind. Trust that she will
help you through this. Know in that moment you will be
able to lean into Kali, for she is the cosmic talk show
host who can expose the dark root of your problem and
she is the great mother who will nurture and protect you
in the process.
4. Tell Kali and the world the truth about your pain.
She calls you out of your temporary back stage cocoon
and invites you onto national TV. The audience is
sitting there waiting to hear your dark secrets.
Millions of people will watch this, including the people
who you may talk about. But Kali assures you that if you
get it out of your system, and just say it now, you will
be healed. She tells you that expressing your pain out
loud is the first step to healing it. And that having
people bear silent witness will help cure your fears of
sharing your truth. She urges you to take this
opportunity to inventory every horrible thing you hold
against your family, and against yourself. Own your own
darkness. Why do you feel so wounded? What are the
things in your past that cause you the greatest pain?
Who do you blame for your wounds? It is time to tell
them how they’ve hurt you. Notice the feelings that
course through you. Are you afraid to tell your hungry
ghosts the truth, or is it liberating? Whatever the
feeling … keep following Kali’s instructions. Know
you are safe, you are grounded.
5. Who are your hungry ghosts? Kali, Queen of the
Cremation Grounds, demands now that you identify the
hungry ghosts of your past. She asks you to name the
relatives and loved ones who haunt you… be honest.
They can be dead or alive. Who has hurt you, betrayed
you, and messed your life up in some way? Who brings
tears to your eyes and has scarred your soul? To whom do
you attribute your pain? She asks you to name them one
by one, and then asks you to look into the camera and
tell them how you feel. She places a warm hand on your
back for comfort and says, "go ahead, and look them
in the eye and tell them how they hurt you." The
camera zooms in for an extreme close up and she
encourages you to feel the depth of pain, to relive the
initial trauma. There is no place to hide. It is time
for the shame to be laid bear. The audience starts
chanting your name, encouraging you to address the
hungry ghosts. You feel the fear welling up inside,
pressing against your chest … and your heart. You try
to hold it in … you try to keep it back … you can
feel it burning in your esophagus. Then you realize you
can’t keep the ghosts safe for one moment longer. They
must be exposed. And you realize all these years you
have been hurting yourself trying to protect the people
who hurt you. Big hurts or little ones, you have turned
them against yourself. Kali is showing all four arms,
and you feel them on you. "Go ahead," she
urges. "Tell them now and you will never have to
tell them again."
6. Tell your "shameful" secrets. Blurt
them out. Dad, you bastard, you ruined my life…
Mom, you made me hate myself.... Sister, you stole my
attention … Brother, you broke my heart ... Grandma,
you never loved me … Uncle John you tried to fondle
me. Whatever comes up let it hurl … and hurl it
right home to the source. Don’t be afraid. Let it out
of you until there is nothing left to say. Then allow a
moment of silence … even allow the audience a moment
of shock. Then watch the shame disperse. Poof. It is as
if a great weight has lifted. Feel the release, and the
sense of relief. Let the feeling of liberation begin to
seep into every cell of your being and uplift you.
7. Dance with Darkness. As a surprise, Kali has
all the people you have just unleashed upon backstage.
And somehow, when she brings them out, they don’t seem
so scary. They seem small, weak, tired, powerless. The
parts of them that scared you once and haunted you
suddenly seem deflated. They can no longer hurt you. Kali
begins the wild dance of death and regeneration. She
begins to dance with your hungry ghosts and suddenly
they are smiling. They are no longer hungry ghosts who
drain your battery and steal your life force…. They
are people. Regular people. They have no power over you.
She teaches you to dance with the darkness so that it
does not feed your fears or your shame. Kali turns some
music on and you dance like a wild woman, with Kali, and
all the Hungry Ghosts. You dance away darkness and
shame. Your heart is lighter.
8. Praise Kali and pray to her. Thank her
for her help and for having you on the "Kali
Show." Hindus praise Mother Kali in many ways. She
is considered the great, all-powerful Devi, the dark
destructress and the rebirther of the new you. Call to
her in this Shloka, or prayer to Devi (Sanskrit
for Goddess) from Hindunet (www.Hindunet.org).
O mother, who is present everywhere, who is
embodiment of Universal Mother,
O mother, who is present everywhere, who is
embodiment of Power and Energy,
O mother, who is present everywhere, who is
embodiment of Peace,
I bow to thee, I bow to thee, I bow to thee.
9. Reach out for ongoing support. A
healthy person learns to balance dark and light, the way
the earth balances day and night. The shadow has its
reasons and seasons, and brings us important lessons to
learn. But we must also know when we are way out of
balance, have had enough, and need emotional rescue of a
practical nature. If you feel the Hungry Ghosts of the
Past chomping at your heals, dance with them if you can.
Stay present with feelings and fears and see what they
have to teach you. And when the burden it too much, give
it all over to Kali. She can take that – and more.
Kali helps heal the soul, and the ego that gets in the
way of spiritual evolution and oneness with the Divine.
Remember to seek professional and peer help as needed,
and be willing to try practical approaches such as
counseling, support groups or 12 Steps programs. This,
in addition to spiritual nourishment through a Hindu
Temple, Yoga, or spiritual practice and participation in
any way that is beneficial.
Remember this Kali
Affirmation: "My truth
shall set me free."
2002 Reverend Laurie Sue Brockway All Rights Reserved.
This article was
adapted from a new book by Soulful Living
columnist, Rev. Laurie Sue. If you would like to know
more about how the Goddesses can lend a spiritual hand
to you in every day life, look for A Goddess Is A
Girl’s Best Friend: A Divine Guide To Finding Love,
Success and Happiness, By Laurie Sue Brockway. It’s
due out from Perigee Books, December 2002.
Reverend Laurie Sue
Brockway is an author, teacher and contemporary clergy
person who specializes in matters of the heart and soul. As an ordained
interfaith minister and non-denominational wedding officiant, it is her honor
to regularly marry couples in love.
Prior to becoming a minister she enjoyed a successful and colorful 20 years
in media as a widely published journalist, editor and author of several books
on relationships and romance, as well as being a noted spokesperson on those
topics. She was editor-in-chief of two national magazines and several
regional publications, and her articles have been published around the world
and in many newspapers and national magazines, such as the NY Daily News, The
Washington Post, Women's News, New Woman, Ladies' Home Journal and Child.
She evolved years of specialized reporting in the field of male-female
relationship dynamics into a more spiritual pursuit that led her to train to
be an interfaith minister, and then establish her wedding ministry along with
a number of popular relationship enhancement programs. Her wedding ministry
is based in New York.
She is also dedicated to bringing about a deeper awareness and understanding
of the Divine Feminine. As a graduate of The New Seminary in NYC, the world's
premier seminary for interfaith ministers, she was educated and trained in
the tenants, spiritual practice and worship of many faiths. She became a
specialist in the feminine aspects of God in all the world's religions.
Today, she is widely recognized as a minister, teacher and scribe
specializing in women's spirituality and The Divine Feminine from an
interfaith and all-inclusive perspective. She is on the board of directors of
World Light Fellowship, heading up their Feminine Faces of God programs, and
is Founder of Our Mother's House, a cyber ministry at www.OurMothersHouse.org.
Long devoted to helping women access the "Goddess Within," she is currently
working on two books that bring the wisdom of ancient archetypes to modern
women. Her newest book, A Goddess Is a Girl's Best
Friend, is due out from Perigee Books in December 2002.
To be placed on a mailing list for information about
A Goddess Is A Girl's Best Friend: OurMothersHouse@aol.com
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