January 4

What is a Radical Beauty Ritual?


 January 4

In the previous post, we examined the predicament of resolutions and the way to love and joy. Let’s explore what “Radical Beauty” means and what its rituals entail.

Some time ago, I wrote a series of blog posts on the many forms of Shakti, the divine feminine. Those writings were deeply meditative and resulted in profound insights, leading to great inner freedom and sweetness. The all-pervading nature of Shakti is useful to understand as we embark on the inner journey to freedom.

Who is Shakti and why should we care?

Shakti is not limited to the female body. As the energy that holds the cosmos together, she is the movement of the galaxies that creates new stars and black holes. As the digestive fire, she is agni that transforms food into the nutrients and strength. As the waking state, she appears as every thought, emotion and action. As the dream state, she is the play of the subconscious mind as it lives and acts out its fears and fantasies. As the deep sleep state, she is the absorption of consciousness into rest. As the evolutionary force of the planet, she is the movement of the tectonic plates that creates continents and oceans. As the great change, she is the earthquake, the tsunami and the volcano. Simply stated, there is nothing in existence that is not her.

Centuries ago, tantric sages gave names and forms to ten of the most significant facets of creation, calling them Dasha Mahavidya (dasha = ten, mahavidya = great wisdom). They are goddesses of profound transformation. They are called ‘maha’ (great) because they represent quantum aspects such as time and space.

On an individual level, Shakti represents both the shadows and the light within us. These opposing aspects are universal and occur in men and women. Shadows are destructive qualities that enhance ignorance and suffering. They are the debris we must wade through to find the light, which is Radical Beauty.

Kali, the first of the Mahavidyas represents renegade transformation. She symbolizes time, which is synonymous with evolution and change. Her shadow is one of aggression and violence. When we excavate through our tendencies for aggression, we find the light of non-violence. The process of transformation begins with Kali. The word “Radical” pays homage to her.

Our inner expedition takes us finally to Kamalatmika, the last of the Mahavidyas. She represents absolute delight, which saturates ordinary experiences and makes them extraordinary. When we dig through her shadow of inner conflict, we arrive at her light – contentment. The word “Beauty” is in her honor. Radical Beauty thus represents this sacred journey that traverses the path from Kali to Kamala, exploring every crevice in our psyche and washing it clean.

Ritualize it!

A ritual is a series of actions performed in a particular order. I find rituals deeply healing and use them to start the day, get ready, drive, see patients, write notes or manuscripts, cook, and so on. Rituals help bring focus and clarity to things we tend to do on auto-pilot mode. They help us slow down and savor small things.

Rituals can be as simple as stepping back briefly to breathe in the abundance of the moment, give heartfelt thanks, gain a wider perspective, recall our life’s purpose or inquire into experience. In these actions, we open to the possibility that life is much more than the details of our day-to-day existence.

A Radical Beauty Ritual is meant to bring the wisdom of the great goddesses into our lives in practical ways. In every post, you will find recommended practices and inquiries. Set time aside to delve into them. Note that these beauty rituals take time to ripen and provide results.  Be patient. Keep at it. Archaeology is not for the faint of heart. It is diligent, deliberate and delicate work!


  • Please use your discretion about practicing a certain ritual. Many of these are profound and have the potential to bring up hidden or suppressed trauma, emotions and life situations. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, please don’t do it.
  • If you are you are under therapy or treatment (or have a past history of) for significant trauma, anxiety, depression or other psychological conditions, please consult with your personal physician before taking on these practices.
  • This is a journey of self-discovery. The rituals are suggestions based on my experience. Each of us is responsible for our own journey. If you do take up these exercises, you are solely responsible for its effects.

Further reading:

  • The Ten Great Cosmic Powers Paperback by S. Shankaranarayanan (Samata Books; Second edition, August 19, 2013)
  • Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga by Sally Kempton (Sounds True; 1 edition, February 1, 2013)

Photo credit: Click here.

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