Fed up of feeling hurt and disappointed in love, Shakti Sundari – a Priestess of Love and Sacred Sexuality – began a relationship with the Divine Feminine instead.
Around 13 years ago, I landed back in the UK after spending six years in the US. I’d only meant to be there for one, but then the babies I’d longed for arrived and, before I knew it, I was with two young children in a crumbling marriage, feeling stuck in a place I didn’t belong.
When I arrived home, I realised that I hadn’t given any thought to how I was going to survive as a single mum with no job or support network to return to. It didn’t feel great, but I distracted myself from the pain and practicalities by launching straight into a relationship with a man I met at a local dance class. It wasn’t just heaven to finally express myself again, it was something of an essential awakening.
As a devotee of the Indian mystic Osho, my lover introduced me to tantra. He approached our intimacy with a presence I’d never known before. Through his encouragement, I discovered the incredible energy possible by relaxing into my feminine receptivity. Despite this joy, the honeymoon period was short-lived and we parted 18 months later.
Feeling alone, hard up, guilty and ashamed, I couldn’t understand why I was faced with all this pain. Desperate for healing and answers, I began reading every spiritual and self-help book I could find and followed an intuitive pull towards yoga and more tantra.
I found both incredibly powerful. I threw myself into a series of workshops and gave it all I had. Right from the start, sexual energy began streaming through my body. Sounds, emotions and involuntary movements shook me, transporting me from deep, guttural catharsis to utter bliss and back again. I understood then that this energy was transpersonal and transformative and that it was my soul path. What I didn’t yet understand though, was how to contain and integrate this in a way that honoured my tender-hearted self.
Still alone and longing for a partner, I repeatedly dived into relationships, only for them to be followed by the searing heartache of abandonment, rejection or betrayal. This didn’t make sense to me, but the truth was I didn’t actually believe that any man worth his salt would be interested in a single mum like myself. So I settled and accommodated, misusing New Age beliefs about love and oneness to justify my poor choices, rather than creating self-respecting boundaries. More than once, I was down on my knees in despair, overcome with grief and angry at the apparent injustice of it all. Over time it became easier to stop blaming everybody else and see my part. Painful though it was, it became easier to keep my heart open too.
A new focus
In the winter of 2012, I flew to South Africa to train as a facilitator of sexual awakening for women. For my 50th birthday two years later, all my friends helped me pay for my initiation as a Priestess of Love through the Glastonbury Goddess Temple. As my teaching expanded, I realised it was my purpose to help others embrace the divine feminine, guiding them through the many steps I had traversed myself.
One full moon in 2016, I called in my beloved with a powerful sex-magic ritual. The very next day, a man whose spiritual name meant ‘gift of love’ got in touch. Within a month we’d announced our twin flame status and my life soared. From the grey winter of London, I was catapulted to a bed strewn with frangipani flowers and paradise coves on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. I was being adored and pampered in every way.
In my haste to embrace this dream, however, I overlooked red flags. My ‘beloved’ turned out to be narcissistic and abusive. I was too ashamed to tell anyone the truth, and too afraid to admit it to myself. If I thought I’d touched rock bottom before, now I felt utterly bereft.
I can’t honestly say there was one thing that woke me up out of this trance. Perhaps it was my work with tantra yoga, perhaps it was the comment from a trusted friend who asked: “Why, if you feel abused, are you still with him?” or perhaps it was just one too many lies.
Either way, in the summer of 2017, I found out he’d been in touch with his ex behind my back. It was as if someone had taken a match to light my dormant fury. I became the face of rage, spewing forth a torrent of indignation, channelling a Kalistyle “NO!” on behalf of every woman who has ever been abused or betrayed. In my anger I finally found my power.
Reaching true understanding
I had no other choice but to turn inward towards deeper self-awareness. Although I thought I’d been embodying love all along, the Universe showed me otherwise. For the first time in my life, I finally stopped looking outside myself. I understood more fully than ever before that the union I was seeking must originate within.
It’s a work in progress. There’s so much pressure in our society to couple up or fixate on romantic ideals of love, but what I’ve learned is that if we don’t first offer our hearts to ourselves in total acceptance and self-honouring, we cannot hope to experience this with another. It’s important to pay attention to your inner critic and question them. I’d recommend using Byron Katie’s The Work to turn around your mindset – it really helped me.
It seems crazy that although we are born and made of love, we have to be reminded of it. We can be so busy looking for love outside ourselves that we forget it’s already here. But closing that inner gap will inevitably magnetise more authentic connections into our lives. My prayer is for us all to enter into this commitment.
Shakti Sundari is a Priestess of Love and Sacred Sexuality who inspires profound transformation for women on their soul path. She will be running a Making Love Retreat from 14th – 16th February and a Dancing the Goddess Retreat from 15th – 17th May, both in Glastonbury. Find out more at shaktisundari.com
Read more empowering self-love stories in our February 2020 issue, on sale now