Love letters to the Goddess, Musings

Tribute to a Beloved Teacher

This morning I received the sad news that Sally Kempton passed away. She has been one of the most influential teachers on my spiritual and shakti path.

You might’ve heard me say that her book “Awakening Shakti” saved my life.

And I cannot write a tribute to this beloved teacher without honouring the impact she has had on my life.

This book is now a required readings on my Shakti Yoga Teacher Training. But let me first backtrack ten years, when I first encountered Sally’s work.

It was 2013. I’d just returned from a transformative 6-month pilgrimage to Nepal and India. It was a very ripe time, and I’d just ditched full-time employment to make my living through teaching yoga (and never turned back).

I was well acquainted with the Goddess already but let’s just say – I hadn’t been properly initiated.

Anyone walking an initiatory path knows that initiations are not easy. This one coincided with my Saturn Return, and was without a doubt a dark night of the soul.

I was serving chai at a yoga festival and met a man who swept me off my feet. This relationship very quickly consumed my entire life. I now see this as a huge red flag, but I was naive and knew no better. This relationship left a big trail of destruction in its wake in a very short amount of time (hello, Kali!)

It’s all a blur to be honest. Anyone who’s been in relationship with a narcissist knows what I’m talking about. I do not use that term lightly, either.

At the tender age of 27, I hadn’t truly had a rite of passage that would initiate me into my power.

This was it (well – one of them – the first and most intense).

As I was in the throes of it all, Sally’s book “Awakening Shakti” had just been published. I ordered a copy immediately

This book is a true transmission. You read her stories about the Goddess and you feel Her presence tangibly. This was one of Sally’s gifts. This book is imbued with shakti – the felt energy of the Goddess.

I wasn’t new to the Goddess, but there was something about this book that brought her to life for me. Perhaps it was because I was desperate. And in my desperation, I was wide open.

It was the chapter on Durga that spoke to me directly. That sparked in me courage, power and strength that I did not know I had. One translation of Durga’s name is “the one who cannot be conquered”. She is described as being able to surmount the insurmountable.

She was my Goddess, and I began to invoke her like my life depended on it. And it literally did.

The Durga Mantra was my lifeline. It was a flicker of light during a very dark time. It sparked my inner power when it dim.

No one around me understood what I was going through. Neither did I – it was a confusing, chaotic mess! So I clung to that book like I clung for my life. And I do believe that it saved my life.

No exaggeration, my soul was being destroyed. And on at least one occasion with this man, my life was threatened.

What seemed worse, to be honest, was that my light went out, so to speak. He sucked me completely dry.

A dear friend who I met around this time tells me that I was “the shell of a woman”. Looking back, I know this to be true.

Friends and family were concerned, but unsure how to help. Some friends abandoned me completely, including my best friend and business partner. Our new business venture collapsed in the midst of this. So did my household. Everything fell apart.

Any sense of a future that was my own was fading fast. It was like I was at the edge of abyss, and I knew once I fell in – that was it. My life would be over.

With each repetition of the Durga mantra, it was like I took a step back from that edge and reclaimed my life as my own. I gained courage. I restored strength with each utterance. Underneath the quagmire of confusion, I knew deep down that I had to walk away – so I did. Even though I was shaky, my Sadhana with Durga empowered me to leave the relationship.

The next day, I found out I was pregnant with his child. Whatever hope I’d regained crumbled to dust, and once again I felt bound, trapped and at a complete loss. Whatever strength I’d gained dissolved as I took this blow.

Not only was I on my knees – I was face down in the mud now. I reunited with the father of the child as I couldn’t see any other way. Things got even worse from here on, and his toxic behaviour took even more of a hold.

What unfolded from there is a total blur. But I do remember one Saturday morning vividly: The morning I miscarried. As I bled, I immediately knew it as the Goddess’s grace. Relief swept through my entire being. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt – this was my way out. From that day on, I cut him out of my life and never spoke to him again.

This happened to coincide with the first day of Navaratri – the nine nights of the Goddess. This felt so auspicious – knowing Durga was being invoked by millions on that particular day. Her presence was palpable.

That day was the beginning of a whole new chapter of my life… and there was no turning back.

I believe Sally’s book was the bridge for me to connect with the grace of the Goddess during this time. Without that book in my hands as I went through that ordeal, I doubt I would’ve made it through.

So it is with the GREAT, great gratitude to Sally, her devotion, and her life’s work for which I feel such a depth of honouring.

Learning from her truly was like Shaktipat – an activation of sorts. Although her work became very widespread in the “popular” yoga culture, never did the depth and potency of her teachings waver.

She made inner Yogic and Tantric Wisdom teachings accessible to the world at large. I was blessed to study with her numerous times, diving deep into texts such as the Vijnabhairava Tantra – and the Pratyabhijñā-hṛdayam

I never got to meet her in person, but that didn’t stop me from feeling close to her. Her humility, compassion, wisdom and generosity of heart have touched the lives of countless truth seekers.

It is a great grace to meet a true teacher on the path. Sally’s enduring light saw me through the darkest night. She also helped me to navigate the stirrings of kundalini energy within me, and contributed to the birthing of Shakti Yoga.

My own connection to the Goddess has blossomed immensely through Sally’s teachings and transmission. I revisit her teachings regularly and reference them in my own work.

Her legacy is irrevocably interwoven with my own. As I write this story (and I have many more to tell), I feel a sense of how important it is that we answer the call of creation when it comes.

I know I want to leave this earth leaving a legacy of love, wisdom and beauty, just as Sally has.

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