From Destruction Comes Rebirth

The New Year is a time to take stock of what we have accomplished in our lives so far. It is also an opportunity to look with clear eyes at the relationships and activities in our lives that no longer serve us, so that we can move forward with freedom and success into the coming year.

I am always amazed to observe how growth occurs in nature through the annual Passion Play; that out of apparent extinction, life comes anew. Here in Michigan, the lesson is in the trees. They "torch up" in a convulsion of beauty, then drop their leaves. The full, green plants we enjoyed all summer become skeletons of their former selves, and seem to die. It is at this time we are advised to do our pruning.

For the best maple syrup, we prune in winter, when the sap lies dormant within the heart of the tree. Come March, spring comes, and the greenery begins to stir with sap. Everywhere we look, the trees emerge; beautiful, and free of the "sucker" limbs which syphoned away their life force. The syrup is sweetest when we take care to prune and remove the damaged and diseased parts when the weather is cold.

What is true in the rest of nature is also true in human experience. For example, divorce is the public declaration of an ending. A "winter" moment, no doubt, and a time to "prune" a very important relationship that has died. That's why it's so hard. The time to embrace is passed, and the time has come to refrain from embracing. In my divorce law practice, I see these difficult times up close. In such "black" moments, it is easy to forget that the most brilliant days are born from them.

People naturally tend to stay in bad marriages; put up with abusive relationships, or keep dead end jobs that waste their talents and distract them from their dreams. Why? It is human nature to prefer the hell that we know to the potential heaven we do not. It's natural for a tree or a person to keep sending sap to limbs that siphon away essential life energies and waste our most precious asset—our time.

It is human nature to cleave to the familiar and abhor the unknown. Divorce is change, and change is frightening; but without the courage to release what does not serve so that we can focus on what does, we can never achieve our potential. That is where the myth of the Hindu goddess, Kali, comes into play.

Kali is the goddess who brings destruction. Her name means "Black Time", and she is known for destructive change. The city of Calcutta in India is named in her honor.

In Hindu mythology, the gods could not kill the demon Raktabija because every drop of his blood that touched the ground morphed into another demon just like him. Within minutes of attacking this demon, the gods found the battlefield covered with myriads of demon clones. Distraught, they turned to the goddess Parvati, who set out to do battle with this unsavory fellow demon in the form of Kali.

Kali ordered the gods to attack Raktabija; then she spread her tongue to cover the battlefield. In this way, she prevented every drop of the demon's blood from falling to the ground. In doing so, however, Kali became drunk on Raktabija's blood. She ran across the cosmos, killing anyone who came into her path. She was finally calmed only when her husband, Lord Shiva, threw himself at her feet. When Kali put her foot on his body to kill him, she recognized her husband. She embraced him, and shed her ferocious form.

Kali is an expression of our own nature. She is right there inside. We just have to find her.

Sometimes, situations require drastic, even destructive, solutions. For example, a marriage that started out in hope and happiness can degenerate into a running battle as the drops of blood left over from one fight lead to three or four other fights, and so forth. Maybe a job becomes so toxic that it is literally making us sick. Yet we stay in it; the marriage or the job, because it is what we know, until "something" intervenes to energize us, and we break out. Kali emerges from within; usually in tandem with an external event or another person's response to something we say or do. We take action, and "she" effectively destroys all that we have known to that point. We expect annihilation, but lo and behold, we find rebirth. It's beautiful.

In my own experience, I had an epiphany. After meditation one day, I realized that I would never be an adult so long as I was living with my much older husband. Our relationship was such that I was more like property than a person to him. It wasn't his fault: I had created the situation as much as he, but the consequence was that my own personality was so diminished I could not assert my Self against him. So, I spent years in a state of exile, self imposed, finding wasteful ways to console myself and distract myself from the pain. I got into martial arts. I smoked. I read books. I hid out in the gazebo. I made very little money. To all appearances, I was wasting time, but what I know now is that I was seeking "Kali."

And at last Kali found me. Alone, I lacked the courage to "order" my husband to leave. I simply said, as much to myself as to him, "We can't live together anymore." He could have said, "Honey, what can I do to change?" That was his opportunity to lie at my feet and be "Shiva". But he was not my Lord Shiva, and it simply wasn't our "script." His negative response to my declaration set in motion a series of events that led to our divorce.

There were challenging days that followed, surely. But the result was that I rediscovered a wonderful path I would have never found under his sway. In following that path, I also made a lot more money. Kali.

There is more to the Kali myth: In times of radical change, it is easy to become drunk with the "blood" of the revolution, so to speak, and go too far. Kali must be checked. A tree pruned too much becomes nothing but a stump. So it is at this time that the Universe brings us a "Shiva," someone or something to pacify us, to restore us to our senses, and take us to the place of rebuilding. This happens after the necessary destruction has occurred and the branches are pruned. We need to know that we are totally safe in the universe, at all times. Look to spring--to Shiva, for the wisdom to discern what needs to be pruned, so that the remainder can grow abundantly.

When a baby is born, he leaves the only world he has ever known. He feels like he is dying, for he does not know that a whole new world awaits him. Likewise, when we go through devastating changes in our lives, it is easy to try to run away from the uncertainty and go back to the gazebo. All we really do, however, is prolong the inevitable and postpone our own good.

As we begin this New Year, let us be open to Kali. Let us begin to allow ourselves to take the necessary actions to trim off old branches. And let us look for Shiva, and the wisdom to move with vigor into a new springtime of growth and change. The results will astound you.

Mindy L. Hitchcock (Michigan Divorce Lawyer)