One of my favorite goddess archetypes is the Hindu goddess Durga who has eight arms bearing a variety of “weaponry” to support her abilities to create, preserve and destruct. Those weapons vary from a conch shell for the universal sound “om”, to a bow and arrow for energy, to a thunderbolt for firmness, to a lotus for continuous evolution, to a discus representing a mystical energy at work, to a sword for knowledge, and to a trident representing inactivity/activity/non-activity (physical/mental/spiritual mercy). She’s the Mother of mothers, of the Universe, signifying birth and death, light and dark, a reverence for both extremes.
So far, since becoming a mother, I’ve witnessed myself going through my own cycles or phases of early parenting: the frightening newborn stage, the cuddly infant, the toddling new explorer, the sometimes-vicious preschooler who loathes his baby brother. I’ve become a better and swifter container not only for their inevitable tantrums but also for myself in knowing everything is a phase, reminding myself that: the only constant is change; this too shall pass.
But, at 5 o’clock after we’ve returned from the park, when a baby clings to my pants, and my four-year-old demands Goldfish while I’m hurrying to heat up another frozen meal, I feel the pressure and frustration and exhaustion residing in my chest, in my heart center. I want those eight arms like Durga, damn it. I’ve even told my older son in an exasperated way, “does it look like I have eight arms?”, to which a week later after asking him to put on his shoes for the 17th time, he replied, “does it look like I have eight legs?”
It’s a constant practice – like hour-by-menacing-hour at times – to stop wishing for what I don’t have, to channel what I do have in a different, more effective, more loving way. I don’t have eight arms to hold a teething baby, stir the burnt lentils in the crock pot, pick up the marble-sized bounce ball, shred a carrot for my ravenous boy, and use the rest of the energy to reel in every last atom of patience surrounding me. However, I DO have the awareness to step back and be that wise little fly on the wall. To see the bigger picture, to hear my tone of voice, to know I need to ask for support, to rearrange and take baths before supper. The exterior wishes for more stuff, more arms to do more, to produce more, to slay more, to control more – those wear us thin. We can wish for it and create it and stay on that exhausting hamster wheel, however, the subtle powers of tuning toward our internal presence, energy, grounding, awareness, grace, knowledge, and mercy serve as more sustainable powers.
As Thanksgiving approaches us next week, whether you’re a mother or caregiver wielding your eight arms and their culinary and entertaining powers (or perhaps you’re at the receiving end of someone sharpening her sword to carve the turkey or create control), take some time to think about how you want to be fed. Before you start crossing off your lists, buzzing back to the store for extra eggs and cans of cranberry, or doing what other people expect before checking in with your needs, take some time to tune into your own plate. How do you want to fill your plate as a reflection of Thanksgiving? Our culture celebrates Thanksgiving as a way to practice noticing our abundance, swallowing our bounty for energy to give back, so instead of racing to the buffet line and sleepwalking or stuffing yourself through the holiday, practice truly and internally feeding yourself. Use the plate below to write about how you can feed yourself through mindful movement, delicious meals made with love, device-free downtime, engaging work, creativity, family/friends/company and any other comforting elements that fill your belly and soul. Note how taking the rush, expectations and fillers out of Thanksgiving paves the way for an inner source of abundance and power you can carry with you and practice on a daily basis.