Great Expectations with Gretchen Rubin
Rabbi Rami talks to happiness expert Gretchen Rubin.
Art by Gaby Gohlar / gabygohlar.com
Goddess Kushmanda is called the Smiling Goddess, and the meaning of Kushmanda is “little cosmic egg.” After taking on the ferociously loving form of Chandraghanta, Durga transforms herself into Kushmanda, the mother of the entire universe.
Before the universe came into being, when darkness ruled, Kushmanda produced a little cosmic egg with her beautiful smile. This served to fill the universe with the radiant light of the sun. Kushmanda dwells in the land of the sun and gives energy to all beings, who she created from her vast being. She is so powerful and loving that she even gives guidance to the Sun God!
After creating the universe, Mother Kushmanda created beings to reside in her divine cosmic creation. The first three were Goddesses Kali, Lakshmi, and Saraswati, who represent the powers of purification, abundance, and wisdom. Kushmanda, as the power of all creation in the universe, made it so that these three powerful goddesses gave birth to three powerful male gods. She matched each god with a different goddess.
From there, the male gods were imbued with the seed of creation of new living beings. Kushmanda is the cosmic egg of all creation on earth, and she also lives in our hearts. The fact that she is smiling reminds us that we too are our most creative when we are smiling and feeling positive, courageous (a quality of the heart), and strong.
The fact that this goddess, like Chandraghanta, rides a lion shows that the power of love is just as potent as the fire of transformation. It reminds us that the ability to love comes from inner strength. When we feel clouded by fear, anger, and grief, it can be difficult to imagine one day having the strength to love again. But Kushmanda is here to remind us that, no matter how brokenhearted we may feel at times, the power of love lives within us, and we can tap into it and become our creative best at any time. Compassion and love are not weaknesses. They are qualities that only truly powerful people can feel and express.
After we’ve stood up for ourselves, even to our significant other (as Chandraghanta did), we are asked to open our hearts to the healing power of love. To truly love others, even those who have hurt us, we have to, first and foremost, love ourselves. When we remember that this power to love is a gift that we can best give others by first giving it to ourselves, we will feel our strongest and most inspired from within. This will help us overcome the common trap of seeking love in all the wrong places, like from abusive partners, addictive behaviors, and escapism into work, food, or other sources of achievement or satisfaction. We do all these things when we avoid feeling pain in our hearts. But to heal, we have to feel.
Once we have opened ourselves to feeling our pain (in whatever way feels natural to us), Goddess Kushmanda is there in our hearts to remind us that all there is left is love.
It is impossible to choose a favorite goddess, as they are all so inspiring and powerful for their unique purposes, but if I had to choose one, it would be Kushmanda. Feeling her in my heart has helped me heal so many deep wounds in my life and given me the strength to start anew after experiences of great loss. Whenever I remember Kushmanda, I smile to myself and remember that the spiritual journey is not to be taken too seriously. When I can relax, I am able to create and share love from a place where I am not seeking anything in return for it.
Roses are considered a hrdaya flower in Ayurveda, meaning they benefit your emotional and physical heart. You can heal your heart from pain, anger, and irritability by simply stopping to smell the roses via rose essential oils or smelling actual roses. Doing so not only uplifts your heart but also helps you feel more grounded.
You can also try taking a warm bath with rose petals. This is especially helpful if you feel overworked, overstimulated, or exhausted. Another idea is to spray a rose-infused mist onto your face to help reduce heat in your body. Roses are edible, and you can make a soothing rose smoothie to take in the heart-healing power of roses too.
Here’s a recipe you can try:
Roses are excellent for beautifying your skin if it is red, sensitive, aging, or inflamed. You can make a cleanser by mixing 1/2 tablespoon rose water and 1/2 tablespoon of milk. Then, wash your face with this cleanser and rinse it with room temperature water.
You can also exfoliate your skin with 1 teaspoon each of rose water, milk, and rock candy (ground into a fine powder), mixed with 1/2 teaspoon honey (if you have hot and oily skin) or ghee (if your skin is dry).
However you choose to benefit from it, make sure to remember the joyfulness of Goddess Kushmanda dwelling in your heart as you do so.
Adapted from THE WAY OF THE GODDESS: Daily Rituals To Awaken Your Inner Warrior and Discover Your True Self by Ananta Ripa Ajmera, published by TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2022 by Ananta Ripa Ajmera. Art by Gaby Gohlar.
Explore more about goddess vahanas—divine animal companions.
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