DurgaMata of London
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“DurgaMata is a tower of uplifting positivity - a breath of fresh air, fun and freedom.”
Coming from a farming and Quaker background, she married a Bengali and discovered a global identity which embraces balanced thought and wisdom from every corner of the globe.
DurgaMata is a musician, speaker, spiritual artist author and wellbeing coach. Known for her online Programme The Seven Steps to Happiness and her Mindfulness-Meditation Silk-Painting Workshops these stand out in their ability to reduce stress, build resilience and aid wellbeing, as well as being joyful, these events are truly transformative.
The following is the first time DurgaMata recorded a video. Her son took it in the garden at her mother's house. This garden now belongs to DurgaMata and she is planning to hold retreats here once the threat of coronavirus has become a thing of the past.
By profession DurgaMata is an artist and teacher but the most important element in her life is SPIRITUAL ASPIRATION. She believes that if we really want to make a positive difference in the world, we have to begin with our own lives and look within. When we take action to raise our own consciousness, this ripples out into the wider world in a natural way and the change is enduring. This philosophy is not new. Over 2,000 years ago in China, Lao-tse expressed it eloquently.
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”
As is true in all aspects of life, the important things are not new. They are timeless. But it is not enough just to know about them. What is needed is action, to embed these truths in our lives. And through her inspirational speaking Durga Mata can enable audience members to see their own lives in the light of timeless wisdom and embrace the necessary change.
At University, DurgaMata took a two-subject degree: Theology and Religious Studies twinned with Mural Art. As an artist she has always been fascinated with colour, light and energy and she specialised in stained glass.
DurgaMata loves teaching both of her specialist subjects but whenever her exam-students chose silk-painting, she felt drawn to this medium above all others and has been a closet silk-paint artist for years. She feels silk-painting captures the qualities of colour, light and energy which drew her to stained-glass, but in a more fluid and versatile way. With silk you can wear the finished art and the colour and beauty influences and lifts both wearer and observer in a dynamic and positive way.
While teaching DurgaMata sometimes felt a deep sadness that her spiritual life had to be squeezed into a few minutes in the morning and evening. She wished that her meditation could be more central to her day. Now semi-retired from teaching she has discovered a way to make this happen. As a spiritual artist, her silk-painting is a real form of meditation and she explains...
“I feel that the peace and positive energy of my meditation is captured in the very fibres of the silk as I paint. This makes my products spiritually powerful as well as beautiful.
I feel that my yearning for a life where spiritual practices and meditation could be more central in my day was like an unspoken prayer which was heard and is now being answered“.
Selling her silk scarves through boutiques and galleries across the country, you can also buy her uniquely beautiful and powerful hand-painted silk scarves through her online Etsy Shop: DurgaMataLondon
This is one of the Consciousness-River Series, 'Rainbow-River,' created on the first of January to welcome in the New Year.The photos were taken when the silk-dyes had dried but before steaming to fix the colours. A few salt-crystals are still clinging to the silk.
Mindfulness-Meditation Silk-Painting Workshops
In addition to creating her hand-painted silk scarves and High Consciousness Meditation Cushions, DurgaMata also gives Mindfulness Meditation Silk Painting Workshops. Having been practicing meditation for over 40 years and being an accomplished Silk Paint artist, she has all the expertise to make these workshops transformational but above all they are fun. She says, ‘Silk Painting is a super-fun, gentle and therapeutic activity. You don’t have to have any prior experience of silk-painting. You don’t have to be good at art. You get stunning results and there are no mistakes!’
Education and Authorship
Religious Education Teaching & Lecturing
Lat Blaylock is one of the most Inspiring Experts in the field of Religious Education. He edits the RE Today magazine and is one of the worlds top authorities in the subject.
DurgaMata has known Lat for some 20 years. They enjoy a deep friendship and mutual respect and met up recently at the annual RE Conference. DurgaMata commented thqt Lat's words have always guided her when planning RE lessons:
'Good Religious Education needs to be Rigorous, Relevant and Spiritual!' and she still follows this guide when planning her talks as a Speaker.
Passionate Pluralist, Reducing Stress and Increasing Happiness
When DurgaMata began training as a Public Speaker she was invited to give her first signature speech on the subject of "Why I am a Passionate Pluralist" to members of the Quaker meeting in Saffron Walden, where she grew up. The video of this follows. However her main focus is to speak on "Reducing stress and increasing happiness and wellbeing."
Consciousness Raising or Serving the Divine.
Durga Mata brings this focus of spiritual, inner peace and power into all she does, whether Silk-Painting, Public Speaking, Teaching Religious Education, Coaching for Positivity, Mindfulness and Well-being or playing the Pipe and Tabor. She regards Inspirational Speaking as just another ‘petal’ of the ‘flower’ which is her ‘Why’ - her spiritual aspiration to raise consciousness, to see and love what she calls God or The Divine in everyone and everything - and to serve ‘That of God’ in all.’
One code of life
There is but one philosophy:
God can be seen
With my aspiration-cry.
There is but one religion:
My life’s sunrise begins
With God’s Compassion-Beauty.
There is but one code of life:
I live to love God.
God lives to purify me and perfect me,
So that He can hoist His Victory-Banner
In the battlefield of my life.
Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, part 6, Agni Press, 1979
With a background in teaching World Religions and a growing business, Durga Mata can speak on many subjects, but a favourite is her own positive and transformational philosophy which she is distilling into two books which are both practical and philosophical. The first of these is a practical guide, How To Win the Game of Life, Seven Mindfulness-Meditation Steps to Happiness. This will be launched in May. The second longer book, entitled: ‘How to Overcome Difficult Situations in Life.’ is more autobiographical, covering the first 30 years of her life.
Alongside the development of these two books Durga Mata is preparing some of her existing books for publication. These are among the teaching resources she has created and offered to teachers free of charge over the past 20 years. Available as free downloads from the Times Educational Supplement resource centre and the TES has included her in their ‘Subject Genius’ programme for elite contributors. Her resources have (to date) been viewed over 948,977 times and downloaded over 800,765.
The first of these books (that Durga Mata is currently editing and preparing for publishing) is ‘Johar’s Poem’ written by a past pupil, then 14 years old, back in 2007, on God, Islam and his experience of teenage life as a British Muslim (at the time of the 7 - 7 bombing.) She is also proud to be supporting her 12 year old Indian granddaughter in illustrating, editing and preparing for publishing, her book 'How to Change the World, Starting with Me.' The text for this is complete but she is working on adding illustrations, together with Mohar and her daughter Amrita.
Passionate Pluralist, Reducing Stress and Increasing Happiness
When DurgaMata began training as a Public Speaker she was invited to give her first signature speech on the subject of "Why I am a Passionate Pluralist" to members of the Quaker meeting in Saffron Walden, where she grew up. But this is only one of many topics which she can speak on. Her main focus is to speak on "Reducing stress and increasing happiness and wellbeing."
DurgaMata has been practicing meditation for some 45 years as a student of Sri Chinmoy, so she can speak with a degree of authority on almost any aspect of religion and spirituality.
She says, “There is no such thing as a ‘Neutral Position.’ We all see the world through the ‘lens’ of our own culture, history and experience. When I am open and clear about my own perspective it empowers others to recognise, explore, better understand and express their own views. This gives them greater clarity and confidence. Then we can learn from each other. That way empathy and mutual understanding can grow.”
“I am a 'Passionate Pluralist.' I claim all religions as my own, so if I speak about an aspect of any religion I do so (informed by collaboration with practicing members of that community) from the perspective of belonging, of being an honorary member of that faith, with all the respect and integrity that such a position requires! I love the following poems which eloquently expresses my own philosophy.”
All religions are part of one God-Tree.
This God-Tree has many branches,
Flowers and fruits.
If you climb up a tree
And rest on a particular branch,
Will the tree be displeased?
Similarly, if you take a flower or fruit,
No matter from which branch,
The God-Tree will be pleased,
For each branch is part and parcel
Of the tree itself.
Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, part 78, Agni Press, 1983
God the Tree
When I aspire,
I love God the Tree.
When I serve,
I love the branches
Of the God-Tree.
Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, part 19, Agni Press, 1981
Spiritual Roots& Cultural Diversity
Spiritual Roots and Authorship
DurgaMata’s spiritual roots are in Quaker Christianity and in her teens she was a founder member of the Quaker Universalist Group, instinctively recognising that all religions are authentic ways to spiritual truth - and there is not only one 'Right Way.'
Married for over 40 years to a Benglai Indian and with a Spiritual Teacher who claims both Bangladesh and India as his own (born in Chittagong, he grew up in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram) her closest personal links to world religions are with Christianity and Hinduism. But she has dear friends within many other communities including Black-British and Sunni, Shia, Ismaili and Ahmadiyya branches of Islam. She is proud of her two British-Muslim honorary grandsons (who have been an integral part of her family for the past 20 years.) Thus, in addition to philosophical and religious topics, she can speak on any aspect of her own life experience, which has been quite a roller-coaster of delights and difficulties.
DurgaMata in her own Words
“In everything I am doing, the core principle is the same - to raise my consciousness (mainly through self-giving service and meditation) and to be more open to what I call ‘the Light of God.’ Only then do I have the capacity to help others change in a positive way - by sharing this light and divine energy in a way that raises not just the consciousness of my friends and clients but ripples out into the wider world. One of the most effective ways I am able to share this loving and creative energy is through my silk painting.” In this short video DurgaMata is ironing a silk scarf she has just finished for a customer who ordered it through her Etsy shop. It captures something of the meditative way in which she works.
“We are living in turbulent times." she says. "The reality and increasing consequences of Global Warming and the curses of economic division and conflict threaten us all. There are already over 63 million refugees in our world today with thousands more displaced each day. We see increasing numbers of homeless people on our streets. The world urgently needs more oneness, more compassion, more real love - yet xenophobia and racism are on the rise. But this is only part of the picture.”
"Awareness of the importance of increasing heart-power, living with a sincere attitude of love, kindness and oneness; the need for spiritual progress and practise of yoga and meditation etc. are also on the rise. It’s up to us to add our weight to the ‘divine side.’ When enough people take this positive action then slowly but surely we will see positive change. Sri Chinmoy expresses this eloquently when he writes:"
My ultimate goal is for the power of love
To replace the love of power
Within each individual.
My ultimate goal is for the whole world
To walk together in peace and oneness.
Sri Chinmoy explains that spirituality is for everyone. He sees God everywhere and for him religion is simply Love of God.
The GTeX StandOut Award
Graduation Day. DurgaMata is 5th from the left.
DurgaMata speaking about her personal philosophy
“I believe we are not helpless and we can all make a difference. The world is like a living organism and each person is a ‘cell’ in the ‘world-body.’ There is a way forward. Each person can aspire and share their talents, becoming a healthy and strong ‘cell,’ helping others to aspire more strongly - and so beginning to heal the world. Politicians are simply incapable of bringing peace to the world. They work from the mind. That is just like stirring up the mud. What we need is heart-power. Only when we raise the consciousness of the world can it change for the better and that has to start with the individual.
If enough people raise their consciousness, strengthening the heart-powers of love, compassion, forgiveness and peace - all the ‘99 Beautiful Names of Allah…. then the undivine forces (such as fear of difference, holding critical and judgmental attitudes, blame, guilt, jealousy, anger, hate, self-interest and ego, not caring about others, pollution of the atmosphere and oceans and destruction of the natural environment, will reduce. This is how the world can be changed for the better. And now is the time!
With Global Warming escalating and already taking a toll there is no time to waste.”
“I feel I have been given this unique opportunity to use my experience of meditation, my knowledge and experience of teaching world religion, my artistic and musical skills etc - not just to create a successful Silk-Painting and Coaching business but also to make a small but significant, positive and lasting change in the world.”
This aspiration is captured in this early video, long before she had ever thought of becoming a speaker. It gives a bit of the background to her spiritual philosophy.
“In all my work I am aiming to increase a sense of self-worth, acceptance, love, oneness, harmony and happiness in the lives of all who I meet - but especially for those who attend my workshops. They will go away empowered, like Divine Warriors, ready to make a positive difference too, just by shedding some of their stresses, strengthening their aspiration and returning home empowered.”
Reduce Your Stress
What is Stress
When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed up your reaction time, and enhance your focus—preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.
This is fine if the danger you are facing is something that needs the fight or flight response, but in our society there are many causes of stress and most of them do not need us to take this kind of action, so your body may come to exist in a heightened state of stress most of the time and that can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include:
Depression and anxiety
Pain of any kind
Skin conditions, such as eczema
Thinking and memory problems
Reduce your Stress - Why Silk-Painting?
It is widely known that many forms of creativity can reduce stress and aid wellbeing. Mindfulness-Meditation silk-painting is a particularly effective medium to use for this. If you paint on paper, you are ‘in control’ because you choose the colours and they stay where you place them. Then you look at what you have created with a critical or appreciative eye. Your mind comes forward to judge your work. You either think, ‘I’m no good at this’ and feel disheartened, or ‘Oh this is beautiful. I am so great’ which can cause the ego (our sense of separativity which tends to be competive towards others and always want to be the best, which is the opposite of spiritual oneness), to grow.
But when you paint on silk, in a meditative way, freely and without a medium like wax or gutta to block the threads, as soon as the liquid dye touches the fabric it spreads. You have no control. You play with the silk and it plays with you. One colour blends into the next creating shades of colour and abstract patterns which you could never dream up. And because all the results are so beautiful there is no competition, no disappointment- only mutual appreciation and a growing feeling of oneness.
Oneness is the only need.
We can establish oneness
Only when we become
The soulful life of peace
And The fruitful heart of love.
Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, part 15, Agni Press, 1981
Wellbeing Coaching - Stress and the Mind
Like many experts in the field of stress-reduction, Durga Mata believes that most of our stress is created by our mind, especially when it worries about past and future events, criticises others or sits in judgement over our situation. The start of Mindfulness-Meditation is to be here and now, in the moment, aware but with a calm and quiet mind. Any activity that helps to calm and quiet the mind and to be present in the moment is meditative. Silk-Painting, in the free way that Durga Mata teaches in her workshops, is an excellent and effective example of this creative meditation.
Durga Mata’s workshops offer a powerful and carefully structured two hour period alternating meditative and reflective exercises with hands-on silk-painting. With a half hour before and after, for refreshments and networking, she ensures the experience will be relaxing, uplifting and joyful.
The Workshop Experience includes:
- Learning from an experience artist, teacher and meditation practitioner.
- Practicing simple mindfulness exercises which raise consciousness and reduce stress.
- Painting with the vivid liquid silk-dyes to create a beautiful silk scarf that you have made yourself.
- Meeting and networking with like-minded aspiring people.
The silk scarf, which you have made yourself, is not just a beautiful accessory to wear with pride. It is also powerful. It carries the meditative energy and peace which participants experienced while making it - and it anchors all the mindfulness exercises and activities which they practiced during the workshop.
DurgaMata asks ‘Just hold it close and feel the peace. Feeling is Believing.’
Participants can feel this power for themselves. And whenever they feel stressed in the future they can hold the silk scarf which they made and feel that strong positive energy. This can enable them to recall the meditative exercises which they practices in the workshop This will then remind them to practice these again and so free themselves from any current tension. Thus Durga Mata’s workshops are all about practicality, empowerment, progress and positive change.
In addition to the workshops, DurgaMata offers one to one Wellbeing Coaching. Contact her for a free hour's consultation to see how this would meet your needs.
Pipe & Tabor
DurgaMata loves music and has sung with an International Choir for years. While at University she supplemented her income with busking, singing some of her favourite songs. But in later years she started to play firstly the tin whistle and then the pipe and tabor.
Pipe and tabor is a pair of instruments played by a single player, consisting of a three-hole pipe played with one hand, and a small drum played with the other. The tabor (drum) hangs on the performer's left arm or around the neck, leaving the hands free to beat the drum with a stick in the right hand and play the pipe with thumb and first two fingers of the left hand. Found in many countries and continents, the pipe and tabor has a long history in Europe. There are images of medieval taborers in buildings, for example York Minster, Lincoln and Gloucester cathedrals, and Tewkesbury Abbey. The one below is from Exeter Cathedral.
These pictures come from a range of sources. The first is an 18th Century painting of a tambourinaire The French equivalent of a Taborer. The second is fresco painting from Estuna church in Uppland, Sweden (mid 15th cent.) and the third a wood-cut illustration from an English medieval manuscript.
Playing Pipe and Tabor at a London Care-Home
This is a video of DurgaMata playing Christmas Carols on the Pipe and Tabor for residents in a London Care Home. See how they become more engaged and lively as they listen to and join in the music.
DurgaMata calls her busking Lifting up the World One Note at a Time.
She says, "Each day in my meditation I receive divine energy, inner peace and joy. In my busking I am able to share this with the people who pass by. I love to see tired faces melt into smiles. There is always someone who tells me, 'You have made my day!' In addition to sharing the joy, energy and inner blessings of my meditation, any payment I earn from the busking goes towards something good, whether by investing in my own business training or helping someone I know who is in need. There are many people struggling to make ends meet in our society and beyond. Whatever extra funds I earn I am always happy to 'give back.' I view money as a form of energy. It flows in and out. It's a power to use for good. I am always happy when I have a bit extra that I can use for someone or something special."
Below is an early video, busking with the tin whistle - but playing just with one hand, pratising the fingering for pipe and tabor.
Eric Ho Partnership
Eric Ho Partnership
Keen to learn from all the great Business and Lifestyle teachers, DurgaMata has found a special resonance with the great International Speaker - Eric Ho. He understands, practices and champions spiritual discipline and progress alongside the material goals common to any aspiring entrepreneur and has commissioned DurgaMata to make Hand Painted Silk Meditation Cushions. Eric Ho will be launching these from his YouTube and partnering with her in Spring.
This is a screenshot from one of Eric Ho’s videos. In the background, under the sweet puppy ‘Faith’ (who he was introducing here) you can see the very first of the commissioned Meditation Cushions. This one is made in gold damask, not in silk. Created for DurgaMata by Anna Mihokova, a highly skilled Dressmaker and Designer, this was the size and style of Meditation Cushion that Eric finally selected. DurgaMata then started painting on raw silk, working with Anna and other top-quality Tailors who make the Meditation Cushions up to the highest standards (fully lined and with an inside pillow filled with Buckwheat Hulls.) The launch of her partnership with Eric Ho is set for early spring. This next High Consciousness Meditation Cushion was the first that DurgaMata and Anna created in silk - ‘Blue Lotus’ - (top and bottom) and Eric’s favourite so far.
If you watch some of Eric’s daily videos you can see some of the High Consciousness Meditation Cushions in the background, at his headquarters in Lincoln. The following screenshot is taken from one of these.
Finally, the following is a Meditation Cushion which was specially commissioned by Mark Stephens, a Rekhi teacher. DurgaMata plans a series of similar cushions, designed around religious symbols and texts, in celebration of each of the great World Religions.
DurgaMata of London