Many thanks to Karen Johnston at irrevspeckay.wordpress.com for inviting me to write for her site as a guest. Her post, “Befriending Death,” appeared here a couple of days ago, and is a truly insightful piece on the pace of death in spiritual practice. What follows here is the meditation I shared with her readers on Akhilandeshvari: The Goddess-Who-Is-Never-Not-Broken. Blessings
A dear friend asks questions of the day on his Facebook page. Today, he asked what conditions or experiences have made his readers grow or develop the most. One of the most common answers was “death of a loved one.” And many of the answers fell into a group: Heartbreak, loss, grief, or other trauma.
(The most common answer was “parenthood.” Not being a parent, I do not feel comfortable writing about the changes parenthood creates and their relationship to loss and grief. I have some theories, but I also have respect. If you are a parent, please continue this piece of the conversation in the comments. I’m sure Karen will also have great things to say on this front.)
The other set of answers, though, I know a lot about. From our births onward, we all know loss. We all come to know grief. We all come to know heartbreak. And trauma is a global, social, and personal experience. We know what it is to find that parts of ourselves that we thought were together are not together at all. And this is when we come to Akhilandeshvari.
Such a beautiful name – Akhilandeshvari. Emphasis on the “lan,” and falling gently down towards the “i.” Who is this being, this “deshvari,” or goddess?
She is a lesser-known Hindu deity, and one whose story and way of being can be very helpful. “Akhilan-“ means, “never-not-broken” and “deshvari” is a Sanskrit term for goddess. Akhilandeshvari is the She-Who-Is-Never-Not-Broken. She is in pieces, as are all who live. Her pieces are constantly moving dynamically to create experience and foster wisdom and compassion.
Times of loss and grief are times of “going to pieces,” or “falling apart.” The wisdom of She-Who-Is-Never-Not-Broken is that, in some way, our being relies on brokenness. Brokenness is inherent in existence. From birth to death and beyond, we are on a journey, and it is a journey of loss. Loss of security. Loss of loves. Loss of limbs or their function. Loss of sight and other physical powers. Loss of memory. Loss of employment. Loss of identity after identity after identity after identity. Loss, after all, of control.
Sometimes it seems that bits of us are replaced, that we can be made whole. the Abrahamic traditions, we are reminded by Job that loss is permanent, that nothing is ever restored exactly to its former state. In the Hebrew Bible, Job gets a new family after the death of his prior family. But he is never restored to the family he lost. He never won’t have scars, grief, loss. Even he, the devoted servant of YHWH, will never not be broken.
Despite much of our religious and spiritual ideology, static “wholeness” is not to be attained in this life. We are not whole. We just aren’t. We are not at-One.
At least, not through the lens of Akhilandeshvari-Reality. Through Her lens, we are never whole, we are always in pieces, and those pieces and their movement is where Holiness and Reality are to be found. There is no need to fight our grief. There is no need to see others as “having it all together.”
We are not together. We never have been, and none of us ever are. In fact, we are never-not-broken. Even the heights of love happen in the context of other loves, other losses.
Let us be gentle. Let us be understanding. Let us be compassionate for ourselves and others. We are not together, and it is okay. One might argue that such brokenness is only one way to see Divine reality. And I agree. Seeing Unity is another way, not The Way, of seeing Divine reality. We need various lenses at various times.
I believe the Divine is always breaking—sometimes blindingly breaking in on us!—and always knitting together. I believe the Divine is One and Many, Whole and Broken. When I have been grieving—as I have been since a dear friend recently died—it is the Divine Spirit of Akhilandeshvari Who comforts me. Her Never-Not-Brokenness fills my own broken heart with hope. I hope somehow, that by embracing my jigsaw-puzzle realities, I may become aware of a sacred point of gravity around which all my losses and broken pieces can turn.
No matter how I spin—like the crocodile on which Akhilandeshvari rides—I can be in pieces and yet remain coherent, knowing the brokenness is all right. Knowing the brokenness leads to understanding, which is the precursor of compassion. I understand that am broken, but I am not broken and alone. I understand that I am in pieces and that understanding is good. I understand that I have rents and tears between bits, and even where I cannot see the chasms directly, I know that they are there.
Some of the torn and shattered places in my life have come through losing loved ones, living with both mental illness and a history of sexual assault, being fat in a fat-hating culture, and all the “slings and arrows” that come with entering middle age as a white lesbian in the United States. Some of my broken places have privilege—whiteness, education, middle-class identity—and some of them do not.
Being broken is not predicated on privilege or not-privilege. It is predicated on existence. This knowing, this understanding is what allows compassion to come through. We are all moving through the world as though reflected in shards of a mirror. The idea that the right hand truly and in all cases can know what the left hand is doing is laughable. And so when we come upon others acting out of partial awareness of their own parts and pieces, we can have compassion for them. After all, we act in similar ways.
And how much more so may we have compassion for ourselves in our inadequacies! May we be gentle with ourselves and our partial attempts at love, compassion, and wisdom.
There is a prayer in the tradition of one of my teachers that ends, “I would know myself in all my parts.” The prayer is not that we not be in pieces. Not that we not be broken. Not that we not have parts, bits, tears, wounds, even chasms….but please, Holy One, let us know them. It is a useful work to know them, to call them by name, and invite them to live ever closer to one another. We need the spaces, and we need the pieces the spaces define (typo: divine). Not only the brokenness. Not only the solidity. But the movement, the shifting, changing, dynamic reality that is All there is.
Blessings on us and on our houses.
Thank you for speaking of things that have no names.
Blessed one, it is the work of mystics to speak of that which has no name, is it not? I didn’t see this comment until long after you posted it – I’m not sure why. But I resonate strongly with the sense that speaking of the ineffable is part of my life’s work. Thank you for encouraging me by your recognition.
I cannot fathom that there is only one comment.
I choose to believe that the article was so well written we collectively found that there is little left to be said.
I didn’t see this post until long after you replied. My sincerest apologies and thanks for your sweet encouragement. Feel free, if you use Facebook, to join our Community Group, The Way of the River. Or to sign up on the “Love Letters” link to get more of my writing.
I am posting a redacted post from a lovely reader who included a long discourse on their understanding of brokenness in Divine form. Here is the end of what they said:
Now I chose to write what things I pondered because of reading the above article, as if they are absolutes. Not because I’m so sure I’m right, it is simply a working theory that filled my mind, after reading this article, a theory I’ve always had, that lead to me searching for a symbol of a goddess unable to be broken, thinking of all I have been through and how I am now tired and losing sight of some of the lessons I have learnt…I wanted reassurance/ motivation to continue…that just like all the other many many times I’ve wanted it to stop, and have almost lost hope…I have ended up getting through it and although I’ve resisted change and when the lesson is going to hurt most, because to move forward ive needed to admit that it is me that is wrong, and that only when I’m willing to change will the pain lessen and not wanting to lose the things I had known and felt safe in, but knowing this new knowledge challenged them and they would have to go….I’ve conquered most of the ones that my enemies have not, whilst still maintaining who I want to be, despite now knowing how capable and close to losing it I have been, and it scares me, the world can be a frightful place, and peoples hearts so cruel, but I find a victory in not letting those things write the end to my story, but finding a way to move forward and ensure it still has some twists and turns and hopefully peace and joy and love weaved in, right up to the end…
But instead of a goddess that takes no sh#t from no one, or outlasts or outdoes any hindrance thrown at her, I found This mind blowing theory that challenges the black and white view we all have, and I don’t quite know yet if I’m getting out of it what it’s meant to be all about, but the more I read it affirms my choices to live as I have described. I am broken and almost all I’ve known has been broken, yet all I see is hope and beauty around me and fight to bring it out in me and others even though they think I’m mad at times lol. But this article made me feel strong again, so I’ve shared my long winded theory with u 🙂 x
What a brilliant exposition on such a subtle aspect. Brokenness is inevitable but is a truth to be accepted that be ashamed of. This is the greatness of religions where such deep aspects are symbolically depicted as stories and deities.
Yes, I love this idea from Joseph Campbell: ”Every mythology; Every religion is true in this sense; it is true as metaphorical of the human and cosmic mystery. But, when it gets stuck to the metaphor…then you’re in trouble.”
I’m so glad this post spoke to you, and I’m so sorry it took me so long to reply. Be blessed.
That is a beautiful post, I thank you and Divine Mother Shakti (Jaya, Namo) for sharing your brokenness with ours.
The Kabbalistic Tree of Life is sometimes called the 10 Emanations or Sephirot, but in fact there are 11 emanations, all of which are divine parts of our souls (and 3 of which are, in fact Chakras) which allow us to shine Divine Light through our souls into the world. The reason that these are called “10 Emanations” despite being 11 is that one, Da’at, is the void which both is and not present. This is an intrinsic and very important part of who we are and yet it is NOT there, at least not entirely. It is the void, which is part of all our souls.
To reference Star Trek Voyager: the Void is, inevitably and undeniably, part of being human.
Thank you again for sharing, I love the article.
Hail Mother Shakti!
I am familiar with Da’at at the Void among the Crown of the Godhead and the Divine Powers of Production and Conception. Also as the Void, the Chasm through which one must pass to move from Sovereignty/Beauty to the Godhead. In some ways, it is like Jesus, to take this even further, saying, “It is finished,” on the Cross.
I so appreciate your connection of these various concepts. Excellent food for contemplation. And thank you so much for writing!
May the Mother of all the gods bless you with fruitfulness —
Just beautiful and perfect timing for me.
Thank you for opening my awareness.
I’m so glad this spoke to you. Feel free to get more of my writing by going to
And then you’ll get my Monday love letter, Reflections.