I just saw this stupid little clip from the Food Network. The chef and team spent weeks, literally weeks, constructing this totally cheesy christmas castle cake thing. It was as big as my dining room table, and dripping in bling, outrageously ornate. Not really my style, but my sweet aunt, the queen of knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, would die to have it. She knows what makes a house a home. She has a room dedicated to teddy bears. To be fair, these Food Network people are professionals; they toiled and toiled on what was undeniably a work of 'art'. Anyway, one of the chef's assistants hadn't been trained right on the flambe bit, and she fumbled; somehow the whole thing caught on fire. The studio audience was horrified as the melty castle went up in flames, and then was unceremoniously doused with the nasty white chemicals of the fire extinguisher. This is what tugs on heartstrings. This is what makes a story. Gain and loss, loss and gain, the stuff of life.
I can't watch TV because I endlessly seek metaphor. This stupid little story, to me, became poignantly meaningful. For this is what we humans do; build edifices around us, of beauty and glory and sweetness, and then we stand by as some fluke ignites it all, burns it all to the ground. Our illusions are busted into a gazillion pieces, over and over again. But so cleverly we convince ourselves that we are something cohesive and stable and secure, and colluding with this fantasy, build anew. This is the way of conditioned mind, and, one could argue, the legacy of hope.
There is a somewhat obscure goddess in the ancient lore of the tantras who presides over, blesses, and is quite amused by the broken-ness that we are. She is Akhilandeshvari, the never-not-broken goddess. Ishvara is one term for God, or the Supreme, and the 'eshvari' of her name is simply the female designation. Akhilanda means, in classic Sanskrit 'krunti' style, in twisted playful-ness, the Never Not Broken. She is fierce and playful, and defies definition. She is utterly adaptive, a chameleon who steps over and over again into flux. She is comfortable there, in the constancy of change. She wants nothing other than to be never not broken. Her vehicle (all the deities have one) is a crocodile, who, in crocodile fashion, takes her to the river (the ultimate symbol of flow) and spins her silly with delirium. She has chosen to mount this particular creature, who takes his prey in his jaws and spins and spins and spins until his plaything is utterly disoriented, because she WANTS to live in that disoriented state where there is no shred of constancy or solidity. She refuses to be confined to one self; she is a changeling, a shapeshifter.
The gods and goddesses are not apart from us; once we let them into our consciousness, they are archetypes that swirl about within. In the thunderstorm, when the sky is cracking open with bolts of light, when somehow our foundation has been torn down by the inevitable forces of change, Akhilandeshvari reigns supreme; she blesses our breakdowns and breakthroughs, and is utterly amused by the collage-like chaos of life. When we are lost in the veld, or being chased by an avalanche, when we've been left by our lovers, fired without cause, foreclosed upon, betrayed somehow, anyhow, by a world that disregards our expectations, she is with us. Anytime that our reality gets so broken that we don't know which end is up, where to turn, or who we are, she is in the center of the breaking. She sits atop the rubble that life can become, as a monk sits on the charnel grounds, content and fulfilled, meditating on the inevitability of decay. But she doesn't just bless us when we're curled up in a ball in despair! She is just as consistently present when we get an offer we can't refuse, some lottery of life that turns reality into pure magic but requires that we leave all we know; the treasure map falls into our hands, or an unsolicited suitor comes along to shift our lives into something richer and deeper than we could have dreamt up. In those moments, when we are too cowardly to step into the new-ness, she eggs us on. She blesses the 'bad' breakdowns just as she blesses the 'good'; she is undiscriminating. She blesses the break from routine. She delivers us from our complacency, and ushers us into our own fierce capacity to remake ourselves.
As we all know, most of us aren't on great terms with Akhilandeshvari. The norm is to dread change, to cling to things as they are, or to look always to the outside for the cause of our dissatisfaction. We cuddle around our little hearths of safety, not really fulfilled, but comfortable. We curl up in relationships that feel stable even as they refuse to grow, or in addictions that take the edge off, fantasy games that give us avatars to hide in, hours of facebook or political commentaries or tv shows that interminably serve up the same hollow, canned laughter, and lull us into numbness. But life is fierce; it insists upon change, and our castle walls will ignite and burn to the ground eventually. Akhilandeshvari is pleased, and she wants us to want her. She would like a more steady relationship with us. It can be an open relationship, she is not possessive. But she glows when we attend to her; when we decide to leap into the unknown, to look within for the source of fulfillment. She invites us to invite change, to energize ourselves to create, and to reject the sticky web of false security.
I just discovered this Goddess last week, as the rain began and finally the ground darkened and softened. Synchronistically, the Chinese year of the Water Dragon is beginning, and we fall into the flames that pour out of the mouth of the mystical. The water dragon invites us into the unexpected, the spontaneous, the unknown. The dragon breathes fire onto our castle walls, until it all melts down, and we have nothing we wish to cling to, and no fear of the fear anymore. With any luck, the NeverNotBroken-ness that we inevitably are will be more palatable in the year of the dragon, as we recognize that we, too, are breathers of fire.