Over thirteen and a half years ago I stepped out of the plane of east India for the first time. I landed in Kolkata (Calcutta), one of the most crowded, filthy, wondrous, artistic cities in the world. Lined with markets and bazaars, smoke from small fires and puja (ritual) shrines, women dressed in outrageous colors, I was simultaneously overwhelmed, enthralled and oddly, relieved. I felt like I was home. Durga Baby Yoko My arrival, in late September was marked by the annual Durga festival, honoring the great Warrior and Mother Goddess Durga. Images of colorful clay Durgas exploded from every corner of the city. These refined, artistic renderings of the fierce goddess with her 8 or 10 arms, brandishing a variety of weapons atop tigers and lions was enough to get my curiosity crackling. I discovered that every year the people of India, and especially the state of Bengal, Durga festival is the time to celebrate the victory of good over evil a reflection of love conquering negativity or suffering. As I continued my travels and eventually, my many years of living in India, I learned more about Durga and her power.  When my daughter was a tiny girl we would often visit our local village Durga temple to receive blessings and listen to the chants offered to the Mother Goddess. Durga Defeats the Demons The most popular mythic story of Durga tells of her battle against the a great many asuras, or demons who plagued the world and the universe.  At their wits end, the three powerful gods of creation, destruction and perseverance came together to figure out what to do. None of the other gods were able to defeat these demons, especially the great demon Mahisasura. By this time, they were exasperated by the plague of demons. Through their powerful vision, fueled by clarity, it is said that a beautiful, powerful, omnipotent and omnipresent being was born, the fearless female Durga. She emerged from this light with three eyes, adorned with the crescent moon and a great many arms riding atop a fierce and loyal tigress (sometimes seen as a lion). The gods were so moved by her beauty and power and light that they each gave her a weapon, to assist her in her task to defeat the asuras. Durga Slaying DemonThe final battle of Durga against the great demon Mahisasura was wild and earth shaking. Mahisasura was able to transform himself into a variety of shapes, an enraged buffalo, sometimes a lion, sometimes an elephant. Each time Mahisasura hurled himself in ferocity at Durga she shattered his forms with one of her weapons, using her sword, her rope, her axe. During each attack, Durga maintained her confidence and balance, defeating each form effortlessly as if it were a game. Finally, in the right moment, she threw herself onto his back, thrust her trident into him and he fell down dead. In that moment, all of his armies fled and dissolved, thus her victory rang out across the lands. As I read this story, I am inspired by the ferociousness of Durga, and yet the calm centered empowered way in which she handles the great demon. If we were to decode this myth, we find that Durga is the part of us that is born of a clarity that lives within anger.  This is not the reactive surging egoic tide of anger that harms others, but instead, anger transmuted. This is the anger turned into compassionate action. This is the recognition, in this case by the three gods, that things have gone awry, the world is out of balance. Similarly we may recognize when our own world is out of balance and we need to take action: fierce action born of clarity in order to make that balance right. This is the kind of action that fuels change makers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela. These leaders and so many more in our world, are not reacting negatively to a situation out of balance, they are transmuting their anger, their pain, their witness of unjust oppression, destruction, suffering and turning it into decisive, deliberate action to relieve the suffering. This is service. Making life our service. First, service to ourselves, and then radiant and empowered, service to naturally and spontaneously dissolve and defeat that which no longer serves us our our community. When we feel overwhelmed by our own personal demons, such as negative emotions, we can look to Durga for inspiration. The energy of anger, sorrow, rage, jealousy can wreak havoc, just like the demons, plaguing our inner landscapes, fueling us into wallowing in a tide of turbulence. Learning to transmute these emotions, see them with clarity and then taking action to dissolve them in our meditative practices has a profound effect on our well being. In the last months following a painful separation from my partner of thirteen years, I have found the importance of continuously doing the work to transmute emotions of anger and sorrow into clarity and creativity. Over and over I have faced the choice of either wallowing in the heavy emotions  or transforming that powerful energy into a healing force, reminding myself to see the bigger picture and have compassion for both of us.  The intensity of anger transformed becomes fuel for creative visioning, continued commitment to serve others through Fire of the Goddess work, to create poems, stories, beauty around me. Durga Goddess Durga's weapons are methods or tools to assist us in facing our demons and her tiger is the powerful assistance that helps in setting clear boundaries. Sometimes, this is crucial when we are dealing with energies that drag us down. Setting boundaries is like creating a container, a container for our passion, our focus, our energies, our love. This is especially important in healing work, when dealing with others' emotions and stories. When do we take on others issues? How do we practically dissolve pain and anger of those, even those so close to us? I find that this takes constant calibration. One tool we can use is the aura cleanse to clear our energy field.  Similarly, if we are exposed to a cold, we wash our hands and we can do this energetically as well. If we feel we have a conversation with someone and afterward feel drained or depleted, we can practice an aura cleanse by visualizing a wash of light moving through us. This is not about the other person carrying dark, negative force, this is simply a matter of self-care.  As we evolve on the spiritual path, we begin to radiate more love and compassion from our hearts, and naturally will not feel affected by others' negativity. But until we are at this place, with a strong hearted immune, it is helpful to care for our energy field. Durga GoddessDurga's tiger is a reminder of our own power. What power do we sit atop of? How can we better use our own power in a way that is effective and useful, in a way that also feels good and natural? In the shamanic perspective, power animals are guides that accompany us on our life journey. We might see them as aspects of us, our higher self that symbolize our wise inner voice speaking back to us. Many cultures view power animals as protective spirits and believe that we would not even be alive without them. Tuning into the animals that we feel resonate with or receiving a power animal retrieval can help in assisting us in staying in our power, just as Durga rides her tiger. Honored and beloved by so many in India, Durga is a symbol of fierce compassion, the kind that mothers exhibit when something has gone awry with their children. Her story is one of power, not the kind of power that destroys everything in its past, but instead faces the suffering and darkness and with the fierce gaze of compassionate warrioress love, dissolves it instantly with a heart full of love. Jai Durga, Jai Ma!