The Infinite Woman

The Infinite Woman, by Edison Marshall, is a book I first read as a teen.  It was one of my mother’s books, and at the time – and because she kept it hidden – I thought it some great mystery for me to discover.

I was not wrong.

When I was eleven years young I was introduced to Yoga by way of a book: The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, by Swami Vishnudevananda.  I still have the 1965 hardback copy with cover.   So it was then, at an early age, I became taken with Yoga.  Then, a scant two years later, discovering The Infinite Woman, my soul was awakened yet again.


In my first introduction to Yoga, I was immediately and intimately attracted to Siva.  I quickly and whole-heartedly knew the teachings I found there, as laid out by Swami Sivananda Saraswati and the Divine Life Society.   Two years later I met Kali Ma, also in the pages of a book.  Where Siva had been my father, she became my mother.

And I met her through The Infinite Woman.  The author, Edison Marshall, was quite the man’s man during the 1950s: a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, a novelist, adventurer, and tiger hunter.  He wrote over 23 novels and short stories, and all of them can best be described as a mix between manly action/adventure and romance.

The book’s heroine is Lola Montaro, who casts a striking image on every page.  She is a true rogue .. glamorous and exotic, sensuous and mysterious, innocent yet complicated.  And she was my first non-Yoga introduction to Kali:

I walked hand in hand with Manu, until the moonlight showed us

the form and face of Kali under a stone cowl.

She was pit-black with four arms, each with a red-palmed hand;

her eyes were red, and her tongue and face

and breasts were stained with blood; her teeth were pointed fangs,

and around her neck was a string of skulls

and about her waist a girdle of twisted snakes.

-page 19

But before you think our heroine is simply the dream of a fanciful and lust filled author, think again, for she is based on the quite real and equally intriguing, Lola Montez.

The book is filled with chapters that conjured vast and mystifying images in my thirteen year young mind: India, The Novice, The Worldly, Krishna the Joyous, and The Dark Mother.  As the titles suggest, our heroine never forsakes Kali; from the moment she first embraced her as a child, discovering her dark terror at a cremation ground, until she watches her lover embrace death as he falls through darkness – laughing.

This book spurred me to find books on Kali at the local library, but such specialized books were too much to ask for.  There were plenty of books on Yoga – its history, practice, science and the like, to keep me busy – but none to fill in the gaps found in Lola’s adventures.  Especially any that would expound on her unswerving devotion to Her.

Not until I asked Her.

When I was 15, having exhausted my search – yet never tiring – I asked Kali to guide me, to “Show me your true form.”  And She did, via the Karpuradi Stotra, by Sir John Woodroffe (aka: Arthur Avalon).  Here, she is detailed in all the glory and gore that Edison Marshall described.  She is portrayed as the “forbidden thing”, as death personified, as the assimilating and transformative force of nature as experienced and lived by the fictional Lola.

From Her Panca Tattva dance upon the ashen grounds of cremation, to her fierce gaze and matted hair, to the fragrant Akanda flowers at her feet, and to the midnight mumblings of mad priests.  Her many faces are oceans apart, yet close as drops upon the soul.  She is vicious and gentle, slayer and creatrix, Mistress of the Five Elements and Mistress to Hara.  She is creator and destroyer, the object of meditation and the non-self, bringer of fear and boon .. even Time stands still before Her.

O Mother!  There are those who worship

many other devas than thyself,

thinking they grant greater boons.

But they are devoid of discrimination,

knowing nothing of what is real,

for they are separated from the truth.

So great my Bhakti, my desire for You,

that it controls my approach to You –

the Primordial One, She of the Present Moment –

who was before the beginning of the world.

You who enjoys the Great Bliss of Union –

the Union of Sivasakti, the Kundalini Sahasrara –

and who is worshiped by

Vishnu, Siva, Brahma and all other Devas,

for they worship You – Mother of All.

-verse 13

I pulled my copy of The Infinite Woman today, and laid it on the desk next to Hymns to the Goddess and Hymn to Kali.  I have been reading them all day .. lingering among memories that seem as rough and unhewn as Her temple stones; yet fresh as the violet bloomed Akanda .. and like its gentle wafting Buri’r Chul .. my soul is carried deftly towards Her.
Prem and Metta!

Contemplative Nature

Before I realized what I was doing, I was cultivating a contemplative approach to life.  You see, it was natural for me to seek stillness in the chaos of my life, natural to seek light where there was darkness, natural to identify with the infinite when confronted with the finite.  Over the years, some have accused me of “escapism”, saying that I have “run away” from life’s challenges.  To this I can only answer, “Not even the saints and sages have been able to escape the slings and arrows of life.”


As a child it occurred to me that I was auspicious, that life was auspicious.  Not that I was special, because anyone who either has children or has spent time with children, realizes that all kids view the world with such happiness and promise.  Maybe my discovery of Yoga philosophy at the age of eleven allowed me to keep that favorable perspective, even in the face of uncertainty and calamity – which befalls us all as we grow through life – because in my Yoga readings, at such an early age, I was encouraged by the promise of  mercy and metta (loving kindness).


What occurred to me later was that all of us are auspicious, that we are Auspicicus Sapian, or that this is our real identity.  After all, as I rationalized early on, we are all born this way.  And those slings and arrows of life, well those are ego and ignorance, or the darkness that comes over us the further we move away from our auspicious self.


A few years after discovering Yoga (while still in my teens), during meditation, I heard a clear voice say, “In the darkness of our lives, there was a spark of existence”, and in that moment, a light literally came on inside my being.  That fire – that tapasya, that heat, that incandescence – transformed me.  Where there was heat to digest and metabolize the food I ate, now that fire sent the Prana of what I ate and drank through the seal in my head.  Where there was experience there was now knowing, where there was learning there was now perception, where there was past and present there was now Now, where there was deception and uncertainty there was truth, where there was separateness there was shared-ness, where there was many there was now One.


Beyond making a connection, beyond finding higher self, beyond replacing the negative with the positive, there is simply a presence of being, an identity as ‘I Am’.


You see, Yoga means ‘yoking’ or ‘union’ of body and mind.  But it also means the union of the lower self with the higher self, the base nature with the exalted nature.  It is not a matter of bailing out of the troubles of the world but embracing them as part of the larger self. It is not about ignoring or destroying or overriding the lower / ego self, to replace it with the higher self .. but to wed the two.


We all live in the world, along a horizontal line, yet many seek the higher world, along a vertical line.  Life is about living at the intersection of those two.


Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

Ancient Wisdom Now

As students of Yoga, many of us understand that our practice is more than physical .. after all, the body does not last forever.  So it is that the dedicated student has come to realize that Yoga is the practice of self.


I frequently remind my students and shishyas alike that, ‘Some days are diamond and some days are stone.’  This applies not only to the poses but to our daily thoughts, which are either concerned about the future or worried about the past.  Such thoughts cloud our perception.


Thinking ahead to the future over activates the emotions and desires, and thinking about the past keeps us from realizing the now.


Traditional Yoga Studies have been passed down to us from great sages who cared enough to share their wisdom.  Their experience of how to rule the unruly mind, to cast off shadow for sun, to do every duty with full attention, to see in each day an opportunity for fulfillment, and to realize that there are no problems, only challenges.


So it is, when we read the ancient Yogic texts, that when we are told that before even beginning the practice of Yoga, we must first seek the grace of Ganesha, and before embarking on the deeper studies, we must first have the grace of Shiva, we are not being told to worship gods.


Ganesha is the energy of success and good favor.  Think on this: whenever we begin a new endeavor we set out with all best intent, we envision achievement.  Likewise, when we have decided to dedicate our self to seeking the ancient wisdom of Yoga, we invoke the energy of Shiva, which is auspiciousness.  After all, who doesnt start a new project filled with an adventurous spirit, a hopeful outlook, and feeling lucky!


Without these two – success and auspiciousness – no matter how hard we try, our Yoga remains only a physical practice.


Which is why the ancient sages also advised us to seek a teacher.  Not a fitness instructor who teaches yoga in a gym, or a personal trainer who uses yoga poses in their workout, but a real teacher .. and not just a certified one either .. but someone who has dedicated their life to the living of Yoga.


With the help of a true Yogi or Yogini, our meditation moves from beyond sitting in silence to being charged with Shakti, the energy of ability.  Again, the ancient texts tell us that without Shakti, there is no fire – the fire of vigor, eagerness and passion.


Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

Jai Bhang!

Bhang is a delightful drink that I enjoyed while in India.  It is a combination of ganja, almonds, spices and sugar.  It is traditionally drank during March and April to celebrate Holi and Vaisakhi, which mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

Drinking bhang is also a way to honor Shiva – the Auspicious One, Lord of Deep Mind.

Drinking and eating bhang (bhang golis, ‘balls’) is not considered the consumption of a drug but a medicine.  In Ayurveda – India’s ancient healing science – cannabis is used to treat vomiting, intestinal parasites, hemorrhage, diarrhea and dysentery, to promote sleep, increase appetite, as a digestive aid, relieve pain, and as an overall means of restoring health.

The use of cannabis is also detailed by Shen Nung – the Emperor of the Five Grains, the Divine Farmer – who described its medicinal uses 5,000 years ago.  Today, cannabis is still found in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM; prescribed for the same conditions as outlined in Ayurveda), and commonly mixed with ginseng, or a combination of poppy, cannabis and ephedra.

Other ancient cultures that recognized cannabis as medicinal include:

-pre-Christian Northern Europe, where it was associated with Freya, Lady of Fertility and shamanic arts;

-several notable Rabbis identify cannabis as one of the ingredients in Shemen Ha’Mishchah, the “holy anointing oil” mentioned in Exodus 30:22-25;

-the Sufi use of cannabis has been mentioned as early as the 13th century;

-and Galen and Pliny, ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, both prescribed cannabis, again for the same reasons as ancient Ayurveda.  Likewise, it was used to treat nosebleeds, cleanse wounds, treat inflammation of the joints, cure ear infections, and in steam baths to detoxify.

Today, the use of cannabis – even as a proven medicine with a well established history – is either illegal or frowned upon.  For whatever reason one may choose to use cannabis – to clear phlegm and mucus, in the treatment of cancer, to relax the ADHD mind or prevent the acceleration of Alzheimer plaques, to stop or slow the spread of breast cancer, to promote the death of brain cancer cells, or simply enjoy a calm mind freed from distraction – remember that all such green growing things are sacred to Earth equally as they are beneficial to our bodymind.

A recipe for Bhang

2 cups water

1 ounce cannabis (as with all green plants, fresh is best)

4 cups almond nutmilk (room temperature)

2 tablespoons almonds, chopped

1/8 teaspoon garam masala (a mix of cloves, cinnamon and cardamom)

1” piece ginger root, squeezed for its juice

1 teaspoon rosewater

3/4 to 1 cup sweetener (to taste)

Remove seeds and stems from cannabis, place in a teapot.

Boil water, then pour over cannabis leaves.

Let steep for 1 hour.

Strain the tea.  Mix the cannabis leaves with 2-3 teaspoons of almond nutmilk, mix in a blender –

add more nutmilk as needed to create a wet pulp.

Add the chopped almonds and more almond nutmilk, blend well.

You can either sieve this of the heavier ingredients (leaves and nuts),

or leave as is (to taste).

Add this mix to the remaining nutmilk,

then add the remaining ingredients – blend well.

The bhang is ready to drink.  It can be enjoyed as is, or warmed, or chilled.


Namaste and Peace Out!


~ ~ ~

Thank you Cannabis Culture for the photo!

Wild Jai Kali Ma!

“Dive”, says Kali, “Into the waters of the heart.

“The sea is not empty of treasures.

If you return emptyhanded at first – dive with renewed resolve

Into My Realm.”

So many precious stones lie about in these waters;

Ramprasad says, dive deep, gather the treasures yourself.

-Ramprasad Sen (Bengali mystic, song to Ma Kali)

Kali is first among the ten Great Wisdoms.

Seated in the cave of the heart,

She brings about spiritual and material transformation,

Burning away impurities and cutting through delusion.

“Resuming after dissolution your own nature – dark and formless –

You alone remain as One, ineffable and inconceivable.

You are the beginning of all, Creator, Protector and Destroyer that You are.

Taking the form of the Void, in the robe of darkness wrapped,

Who art Thou, Mother .. seated alone in the shrine of samadhi?

From the lotus of Thy fear-scattering feet flash the lightnings of love.

Thy spirit-face shines forth with laughter wild and loud.”

-Kali Bhajan

Feeling so into killing everything in my path.

Cutting off heads with my sword with one hand,

collecting them to adorn my neck with the other.

Crashing through all worlds on a rampage,

scattering all darkness upon the path.

None can stop me!  Not even Shiv himself.  He too falls at my wrath.

And in that .. the destruction of destruction .. I wake up, smile coyly,

stick out my tongue and say: “Oooops!  My bad!”